Racially-motivated police probe leads to $600K settlement

Clackamas County

West Linn police chief behind unwarranted surveillance of black man

PORTLAND, Ore. — The City of West Linn awarded a Portland man $600,000 after former West Linn Police Chief Terry Timeus allegedly told his officers to arrest the man as a favor for a friend.

A lawsuit originally filed in 2017 accuses Timeus of ordering two sergeants to investigate and build a case against 48-year-old Michael Fesser. The lawsuit claimed Timeus was acting on behalf of a personal friend who owned a Portland towing company where Fesser was employed. That business owner allegedly told Timeus he was worried Fesser might sue him for racial discrimination so Timeus was having his officers build a case that Fesser was stealing from the company.

The involved officers eventually arrested Fesser and detained him without probable cause, the lawsuit alleged.

“They started out by trying to assassinate my character,” Fesser told KOIN 6 News.

The City of West Linn agreed this month to settle the suit but said the decision “is not an admission of liability.”

Fesser said he’s just happy to be able to move forward and embrace forgiveness.

“What’s really going to help is if we come together as a community and their community also and we just move through this process so it doesn’t happen again,” he said.

The West Linn Police Department shared the following statement with KOIN 6:

“After careful consideration by the City’s insurance carrier and external legal counsel, it was determined that a cessation of litigation expenses was in the best interest of the City and allows us to focus on our core mission of service to the community. A settlement of $600,000 is expected to be paid by the City’s insurance provider to the Plaintiff and his attorneys after all documents have been properly executed. This settlement is not an admission of liability; it seeks to avoid additional expense, uncertainty, and drain on public resources.

The City of West Linn and the West Linn Police Department do not tolerate any acts of discrimination or disparate treatment by its employees. In 2018, when the allegations were first reported, an internal investigation was conducted and swift and appropriate disciplinary personnel action was taken.

The West Linn Police Department is proud of its diverse workforce and actively works with its officers and staff to constantly maintain awareness through ongoing special trainings and education in areas such as harassment, diversity, equity, inclusion, implicit bias, and procedural justice. Under the current leadership of Chief Terry Kruger, the Police Department embraces a culture of enhanced awareness, training, and open community conversations. The Police Department was an integral part of the Multi-City Equity Summit in 2019 and looks forward to continued partnerships with the West Linn Alliance for Inclusive Community, West Linn-Wilsonville School District, and other community leaders on initiatives to further improve on these critical issues in 2020 and beyond.

As we move forward, the West Linn Police Department strives to learn from both our past mistakes and our successes. Our officers, from the newest hire up to the Chief, make every effort to ensure that they are serving the community with the utmost professionalism and dedication.”

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