The Portland Tribune is a KOIN 6 News media partner.
PORTLAND, Ore. (PORTLAND TRIBUNE) — Hillsboro officials have reached a settlement with a woman who claimed racial discrimination in a 2020 lawsuit against the city’s police department.
After a judge largely sided with the plaintiff, Hillsboro agreed to pay Jean Coppedge $90,000 to avoid further legal proceedings in federal court. In her complaint, Coppedge sought $600,000 in damages following a call to police in 2019, which she asserts led to a biased investigation against her.
Coppedge called police to her Hillsboro home, saying her neighbors verbally and physically harassed and assaulted her after she asked them to stop their dog from urinating on her lawn. She said they shouted racial slurs at her and threw her walking cane into the street.
When Officer James Schoeffler and Sgt. Clint Chrz arrived, Coppedge alleges that they took the side of the neighbors and didn’t take her claims against them seriously, saying that her mental illness and previous conflicts with other neighbors undercut her credibility.
Coppedge is Black. The neighbors involved, as well as the two officers who responded, are white.
In her complaint, Coppedge alleges that the officers instead helped other neighbors file a police report against her, which she says was used by her landlord to evict her from her rental unit.
The incident was recorded on body-worn cameras, though court documents state that the officers involved “disabled the audio” on their cameras during parts of their own “private conversations.”
Coppedge scheduled a meeting with Hillsboro Police Department officials shortly after, expressing her displeasure with the investigation and the officers’ conduct. Police then reviewed the body camera footage and the police report, ultimately concluding that the officers’ recounting was fair and accurate.
Coppedge filed a civil complaint against the city in state court in 2020, saying that the police department conducted a biased investigation that violated her due process and civil rights. Last year, the lawsuit was escalated to federal court.
In her findings and recommendations on the case, U.S. Magistrate Judge Youlee Yim You largely sided with Coppedge, saying that her discrimination arguments were valid.
“Here, viewing all the facts in the light most favorable to (the) plaintiff, it is not implausible for a factfinder to infer intentional discrimination from the defendants’ actions and omissions,” she wrote on March 31.
Of those omissions, the judge pointed to Coppedge’s assertion that Schoeffler omitted from his police report that her neighbors admitted to saying racial slurs and throwing her walking stick into the street.
“Moreover, (the) plaintiff sufficiently alleges that during the investigation, Officer Schoeffler and Sergeant Chrz, addressed her in a condescending and dismissive manner — a stark contrast to the warm commentary and advice provided to (the) plaintiff’s non-African American neighbors,” the judge’s findings continued.
Much of the legal debate centered around an area of Oregon law known as the Public Accommodations Act. It states that all Oregonians have the right to take advantage of public services and facilities without discrimination or restriction based on race, color, religion, sex, or other factors.