Breaking News
More () »

West Linn police could soon be subject to oversight board after sex abuse case, wrongful arrest

West Linn police investigated dozens of sex abuse allegations against a former local doctor, but the case did not result in criminal charges.

WEST LINN, Ore. — (Warning: This article contains information about sexual assault that may be triggering to some readers.)

West Linn's city council plans to vote next Monday on whether to establish an independent oversight board for the city police department, following allegations that police botched an investigation into a former local doctor accused of sexually abusing more than 100 patients.

This fall, a Clackamas County grand jury chose not to indict the ex-doctor, David Farley, based on the evidence gathered by West Linn police and presented by the county district attorney's office.

The women accusing Farley were outraged in the wake of the September proceedings, and some are now pushing for more accountability at the West Linn Police Department.

Two of the women, Lisa Pratt and Katie Medley, addressed a recent West Linn City Council meeting — delivering an emotional plea that brought Mayor Jules Walters to tears.

"Even though we begged them to ask for help from other resources, they refused," Medley said of West Linn police.

"We expect better. We deserve better," said Pratt. "If we don't have the resources in this nice of a community to protect our women and children, then what good are we?"

Both Pratt and Medley have been pushing for reform at the West Linn Police Department. Their testimony came during a meeting where the city council discusses creating a police oversight board to investigate claims of officer misconduct.

"He didn't ask me a single question"

According to Pratt and Medley, West Linn police mishandled the investigation into Farley, despite dozens of alleged victims willing to speak as witnesses and accusations that the doctor abused more than a hundred women and girls over a period of several decades.

Many of the women came to Farley for OBGYN care at his practice, West Linn Family Health Center.

"In 2019, I had a doctor appointment with him, like a repeat (Pap smear) that he had lied about," recounted Medley. "It was a completely unnecessary appointment. He sexually assaulted me in that appointment."

Pratt described a similar experience. According to her account, she was 9 months pregnant when Farley asked her to come to his home for a procedure to induce labor.

"He swept my membranes, which is a very quick procedure. But then it didn't stop," Pratt said. "And I remember laying there wondering, 'What's happening right now?' And then I yelled, 'Ouch!' Really loud. And he jumped. And he started fumbling over his words."

The Oregon Medical Board investigated Farley over claims that he conducted improper pelvic exams on minors and took photos of children's genitals. In 2020, the board revoked his medical license, citing "unprofessional or dishonorable conduct and gross repeated acts of negligence." Farley retired and later moved out of Oregon.

In September 2022, after a nearly two-year criminal investigation, a grand jury in Clackamas County decided not to indict Farley on criminal charges, finding that there was not enough evidence to prove the claims.

Farley still faces a massive civil lawsuit filed on behalf of dozens of women. But any hope of a criminal case has all but vanished.

Medley and Pratt blame the lack of an indictment on how the investigation was handled. They fault the Clackamas County District Attorney's Office, as well as the West Linn Police Department and the lead detective on the case.

"By the time you get to the police, you feel like you're going somewhere that's safe," Medley said. The experience, she found, did not live up to that expectation.

"He didn't know the questions to ask, in fact he didn't ask me a single question. There was no forensic questioning," Medley told KGW, referring to the detective.

Both Medley and Pratt said that they felt dismissed and were not taken seriously by investigators.

"Their investigation, to my knowledge, pretty much consisted of creating a waiting line for the hundreds of women who were calling, and telling them, 'Well, you can come give your statement in a month, or two months,'" Medley told the West Linn City Council.

West Linn Council President Rory Bialostosky said he was moved by Pratt and Medley's statements during the council meeting, calling the testimony "heartbreaking and gut-wrenching."

"I'm concerned that this whole investigation was handled in a way that left so many victims angry and frustrated," he said. "They need to know and feel that they are believed and valued."

"People feel it's long overdue"

Bialostosky said that the testimony motivated him to expedite the formation of a police oversight board, one that could be used to audit how West Linn police handled the Farley investigation.

But the original push for oversight stemmed from an earlier episode involving West Linn police, one that happened in 2017. Members of the agency were deeply implicated in the wrongful arrest of Michael Fesser, a Black man, at the behest of West Linn's then-chief of police, Terry Timeus.

Timeus ordered an investigation into Fesser as a favor for a friend, Fesser's employer at a Portland towing company. Fesser said that the arrest was in retaliation for his complaints about a racially hostile work environment.

In 2020, the City of West Linn agreed to pay Fesser $600,000 to settle a lawsuit. Then, in the spring of 2022, the police sergeant who arrested Fesser was criminally charged. He was sentenced to a year and a half of probation.

None of the officers directly involved in the scandal work for West Linn police anymore, including Timeus. All of them were either fired or resigned, though the process took years in some cases. Fesser continued to push for justice well after the settlement, and did not find it forthcoming.

“What happens when I do something wrong? They hold me accountable,” Fesser told KGW in early 2021. “So, if these officers are doing something wrong and they've done something wrong, it's not rocket science here, hold them accountable. Whoever played a part in this hold them accountable, please."

Bialostosky said he hopes the new oversight board will help bring a level of transparency to the police department and the city of West Linn.

"It's a step toward restoring the public's trust and having a check and balance on the police misconduct process," he said. "People feel it's long overdue."

The 5- or 7-member panel will be comprised of residents from the community. They'll evaluate complaints and provide disciplinary recommendations to the city manager.

"They'll have access to things that even city councilors and elected officials don't have access to: police reports, body camera footage," Bialostosky added.

Both the West Linn city manager and current police chief said that they are in full support of the proposal. They pointed out that there is now an outside independent investigation underway into whether the lead detective on the Farley sex abuse case violated department policy.

"We take these allegations seriously and this is why we are hiring an independent outside investigator," City Manager John Williams told KGW in a statement. "The intent of the work is not to re-examine our entire investigation, but rather to evaluate whether he followed policy and conducted himself in a professional manner consistent with WLPD's standards."

"When the review is finished, we will be in a much better place to determine where opportunities to get better may exist," said WLPD Chief Peter Mahuna in a statement. "We will also address any training needs or policy updating that may be needed."

Pratt and Medley are hopeful that something positive will come from all of this.

"City council was very empathetic and kind," said Medley. "We felt heard in that meeting. So I hope that, while this is a good place to start, I hope some progress is made."

They've now written a letter asking the Oregon Department of Justice to intervene and pursue its own investigation into David Farley. Pratt vows to keep fighting until justice is done.

"I will keep going until I know that he is behind bars, until he is where he belongs," she said. "Because I cannot rest, knowing that he can hurt other people."

Before You Leave, Check This Out