Final report issued to West Linn in Michael Fesser case

Clackamas County

OIR Group makes 14 specific recommendations

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — A lengthy report on how the City of West Linn handled the Michael Fesser case listed 14 recommendations and concluded “the saga of the Fesser case offers several
representative lessons.”

The Fesser Case

In February 2020, a federal civil rights investigation was launched into the 2017 wrongful arrest Fesser, a Black man who said he was targeted because he complained about a racially hostile work environment at a Portland towing company.

The U.S. Department of Justice confirmed an investigation into accusations of criminal wrongdoing by West Linn police in building a questionable theft case against Michael Fesser.

The case led West Linn to settle a federal discrimination and wrongful arrest lawsuit by Fesser for $600,000.

A series of events followed. In June, Tony Reeves, the West Linn police sergeant who was the lead investigator in Fesser’s wrongful arrest was fired by the department.

Then earlier in December, Terry Kruger was removed from his position as chief of the West Linn Police Department on Friday. He had been on paid leave since April during an investigation into the city’s handling of the Michael Fesser case.

“I believe that new leadership within the West Linn Police Department will help the community move forward,” said City Manager Jerry Gabrielatos said at that time. “This is a step toward restoring confidence in the West Linn Police Department.”

The Report by the OIR Group

The 14 recommendations cover all manner of items the City of West Linn should do to improve standards and protocols.

And they concluded with some of the lessons they learned.

“Some of these are disappointing in the most basic way: that our officers can use their authority to mistreat people, and that bias and unprofessionalism still pervade the justice system.

“Some of the lessons are more complex. They relate to systemic limitations that can seem subtle, but they are potentially far-reaching in their implications. Here, the City’s sluggish reckoning with the scope and severity of the problems in the Fesser matter – a dynamic with several different facets – shows by omission the value of confronting difficult situations robustly and keeping elected officials engaged.”

“The Report outlined deficiencies in the Police Department’s accountability structure. We truly want to get better, and these recommendations will help us do that,” Acting Chief Peter Mahuna said in a statement. “We are committed to making West Linn a safe and welcoming place for everyone.”

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