The city of Portland has agreed to pay $50,001 to settle a discrimination suit brought by a Black motorist who claims a Portland officer harassed him at his job after he accused said officer of racially profiling him.
According to Jamal Winchester‘s lawsuit, the officer had stopped him twice within a month in the same area of Southeast Portland.
“For me, it’s not about the monetary value,” said Winchester, 39. “It’s about holding people with authority accountable.’’
His complaint stemmed from a May 2016 traffic stop by Officer Gregory Burn, who pulled Winchester over for allegedly not wearing his seat belt and having invalid registration tags, OregonLive reported. Burn wrote Winchester a ticket and told him if he fixed his tags and completed a driver’s safety course, the ticket would be dismissed.
Fast forward to a month later when Winchester was headed to court from his job at the U.S. Postal Service to have his ticket dismissed when he was stopped by Burn yet again. The lawsuit notes Winchester was driving a different car, a Cadillac Escalade, during the June 2016 stop.
Winchester claims the cop approached the driver’s side window, started laughing and said sarcastically, “What are the chances? One in a million!” The driver was cited yet again for failure to wear a seat belt and improper display of registration tags, according to the suit.
A ticked off Winchester remarked at the scene, “Might as well just hand me that and say, ‘Have a good day (n-word),” the complaint says.
The encounter only escalated from there. Burn, who is white, chided Winchester for making such a remark and threatened to call the judge and advise him not to dismiss Winchester’s ticket after all. The man said he stepped out of his vehicle to try and talk to the officer, who immediately ordered him back inside the car and had a hand on his holster.
Both men drove away unharmed, and Winchester returned to work to calm down after the incident. Moments later, Burn arrived at the Post Office to complain to Winchester’s boss about his “combative and aggressive” behavior during the traffic stop. The complaint also claims the officer told the boss that Winchester was making the Postal Service look bad.
“By making false and defamatory statements to Winchester’s employer, yelling at him and threatening to improperly influence the legal process to effectuate a stiffer penalty than Winchester would otherwise have had, defendant Burn violated Winchester’s right to speak about matters of public concern,” Winchester’s attorney’s Beth Creighton and Michael Rose wrote in the lawsuit.
Winchester said he later learned that Burn was spotted circling the post office several times before walking in to speak with his boss.
The Oregon man was ultimately issued a $60 fine for improper display of his registration tags in the first stop and a $150 fine for both the tags and failure to wear a seat belt in the second stop, OregonLive reported.
Burn, a 14-year-veteran of the force, and the city acknowledged no wrongdoing as part of the settlement, which was reached Monday. The city acknowledged Burn had made initial remarks about “one in a million,” but didn’t laugh or say anything sarcastic. It also admitted that the officer had threatened to contact the judge about Winchester’s behavior and had complained to his boss.
“The judgment shall not be construed as an admission of liability nor an admission that plaintiff suffered any damages,” Deputy City Attorney Robert Yamachika wrote.
Earlier this year, Winchester also filed a discrimination suit against Walmart after he was accused of stealing a fishing pole he’d just purchased.