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Chief Placed on Leave as Fallout Continues for Oregon Police Department That Wrongfully Arrested Black Man Who’d Complained of Workplace Racial Harassment

An Oregon police chief is on administrative leave while an investigator looks into a lawsuit from a wrongfully arrested Black man.

West Linn Police Chief Terry Kruger was placed on paid administrative leave on April 8.

“Administrative leave ensures that all parties have the opportunity to clearly and completely answer questions and explain their actions,” the city said in a statement. “It is not a determination of wrongdoing on the part of Chief Kruger or anyone else. Any such determination can only be made after the investigation is complete.”

West Linn Police Chief Terry Kruger was placed on administrative leave while the city investigates the case of Michael Fesser, a Black man who sued the city over a wrongful 2017 arrest. (Photo: City Of West Linn)

Michael Fesser sued the Portland suburb’s police department after he was arrested in 2017 and accused of stealing from A&B Towing Co., his employer. The arrest turned out to be staged by then-West Linn Police Chief Terry Timeus, who was friends with Eric Benson, the company’s owner, according to The Oregonian.

Prior to the arrest, Fesser complained about racial discrimination he experienced in the workplace, and Benson was worried about a potential lawsuit. Court documents state co-workers used racial slurs toward him and brandished a confederate flag.

Michael Fesser Wins Settlement
Michael Fesser was arrested in 2017 after his boss falsely accused him of theft. (Photo: KGW / video screenshot)

The West Linn officers also operated outside of their jurisdiction when they began investigating Fesser. Fesser lives in Portland, and A&B Towing is located in Portland. Kruger was installed as chief after Fesser’s arrest, but some citizens have called for his firing. He reportedly defended Fesser’s arrest behind closed doors, according to documentation from meetings between the chief and city officials.

“It’s not an illegal investigation. There wasn’t illegal surveillance. It wasn’t an unlawful arrest. There wasn’t a violation of his civil rights. These are the allegations. But it was a legitimate investigation,’’ Kruger said during a September 2018 meeting.

“There was probable cause. They did arrest him lawfully. He was indicted for crimes.’’

Fesser was awarded a $600,000 settlement from the city in February. He also received $415,000 from his former employer.

“The pattern of police misconduct and racism by West Linn Police officers, facilitated by the Portland Police, is truly shocking and disheartening,” Paul Buchanan, Fesser’s lawyer, told CBS News in February. “We hope that our local police will take the very strong local and national reaction we are seeing to this case as a strong message that reform is required. It is scary that the police can so readily make up claims that are not true.”

Fesser wants to protect other Black men, including his sons, from a similar experience.

“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 last month. “This cannot happen. It has to stop.”

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