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Alleged victims describe impacts of police department's approach to investigation, plead for accountability

PMG SCREENSHOT: WEST LINN CITY COUNCIL - Lisa Pratt, a patient of former doctor David Farley provides emotional testimony to the city council about WLPD's handling of the investigation. After hearing passionate testimony from several alleged victims of ex-doctor David Farley about their experiences with the West Linn Police Department, the West Linn City Council moved a step closer to forming a citizen police oversight board during its meeting Monday, Nov. 7.

Though this discussion has been nearly three years in the making, the council's policy discussion was overshadowed by the harrowing testimony of Farley's former patients.

"I don't know the answer to police accountability. I just know that something needs to be done," former Farley patient Lisa Pratt said. "When over two years ago I decided to be brave enough to speak up and walk through the doors of the West Linn Police Department, I thought I was walking into a safety net and that I would be able to finally breathe. The police were supposed to be there to help us feel safe. Instead, we were dismissed, invalidated and even mocked."

West Linn police began investigating Farley over two years ago after Pratt and three other women reported repeated sexual abuse by the doctor. Though the Oregon Medical Board revoked his license, and over 120 women and girls have alleged sexual abuse by Farley in a civil lawsuit against him and the medical institutions he practiced at, a Clackamas County grand jury decided in September not to bring criminal charges against him.

Seventy-one of Farley's former patients claim the grand jury's decision was impacted by multiple failures on the part of the police and the Clackamas County District Attorney's Office. Those 71 patients have asked Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum to take up their case.

Katie Medley, another former patient who spoke to the council, invoked the words from the Pledge of Allegiance everyone in the council chambers recited at the beginning of the meeting.

"In West Linn, it is liberty and justice for all — except women," Medley said. "If 200 women can come forward and it's not enough, then I think (justice) is not for women right now."

Councilors apologized to the women for their suffering and thanked them for speaking about their experiences.

Councilor Mary Baumgardner invited Police Chief Peter Mahuna to respond to the women who detailed how they were impacted by Detective Tony Christensen's approach to the investigation.

As he had previously, Mahuna defended WLPD's investigation and asserted that he believed the women and children who came forward.

He added that the grand jury's decision was not reflective of WLPD's effort in the investigation.

"We did the best we could within the constraints of the law," Mahuna said.

Family members of victims pushed back on Mahuna's assertion that the failed indictment was a result of "the constraints of the law."

Pratt's husband, Logan Pratt, recounted his experience sitting with the four women who initially filed reports with West Linn police as they were interviewed by Christensen.

"The 'constraints of the law' is an excuse. These women back here, including my wife, have heard excuses every step of the way. I personally have heard them from the West Linn Police Department," Logan Pratt said. "(Detective Christensen) repeatedly asked questions that any competent sex crimes detective should know — about female anatomy, about certain tools. Incompetence is a kind way to put it. Incompetence is not within the confines of the law. It's an excuse."

Charlotte Wilson, another alleged victim of Farley's, said WLPD failed the hundreds of women and children who were brave enough to report abuse in addition to the future women and children Farley could go on to abuse.

"I wish there were a way to hold the West Linn Police Department accountable for that, but there won't be," Wilson said.

Council wants to maintain involvement with board

Ultimately, the council decided to move forward with creating an oversight board under the structure proposed by City Manager John Williams. A committee of seven citizens will be appointed by the council to oversee complaints against police and make recommendations regarding investigation of those complaints, as well as discipline, to the city manager and police chief.

Though several members of the council expressed a desire for the board to report directly to them, as elected officials, they conceded that labor and public meeting laws were too great of an impediment to that structure.

Protections in the police union contract and state law prohibit most complaint and disciplinary matters from being disclosed publicly, Williams explained. Public meeting laws prohibit community groups advising the council from meeting in closed sessions. Having the oversight board report to the city manager and police chief, rather than council, provides a workaround for this predicament, Williams explained.

The group would hold discussions about complaints and discipline privately but still regularly discuss policy and trends in open meetings.

The council added a few caveats to Williams' proposal to ensure greater transparency and council involvement. Council President Rory Bialostosky wanted to ensure that the ordinance creating the committee would specify that the committee would hear whistleblower complaints from officers as well as complaints from the community.

Councilor Todd Jones advocated that the human resources director should be involved with the board, and the board should also have direct access to an independent auditor from outside the city who could provide guidance and recommendations. Jones also suggested the board have at least one council liaison.

Further, Baumgardner said the board should be more autonomous than the city's community advisory groups. She felt too much oversight from the city could inhibit the board's ability to authentically and independently review police matters.

The council will again discuss the review board, and possibly adopt an ordinance codifying its creation, at a meeting in December.

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