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West Linn police chief fired in 'step toward restoring confidence' following 2017 bogus arrest of Black man

Ousted police chief Terry Kruger will be offered three months of severance pay. He had been with the police department since June 2018.
Credit: City of West Linn
Terry Kruger

WEST LINN, Ore. — West Linn Police Chief Terry Kruger was fired Friday, about eight months since he was put on administrative leave over an investigation into the wrongful arrest of a Black man.

Under the terms of his employment agreement, Kruger will be offered three months of severance pay. He had been with the police department since June 2018.

“I believe that new leadership within the West Linn Police Department will help the community move forward,” said City Manager Jerry Gabrielatos. “This is a step toward restoring confidence in the West Linn Police Department.”

Kruger was put on leave in April to “further ensure a complete, fair and impartial investigation" into the 2017 arrest of Michael Fesser, a Black man who was arrested on bogus allegations he was stealing from the Portland towing company he worked for. 

Terry Timeus was the West Linn police chief when the investigation began. 

Court documents show Timeus ordered officers to investigate Fesser and build a case around allegations Fesser was stealing from A & B Towing.

Fesser, who believed he was a victim of racial discrimination at his work, had brought his concerns to his boss. The boss, fearing a lawsuit, turned to his friend, Timeus, who ordered the investigation. Fesser was arrested and jailed.

The case was later dropped and Fesser won lawsuits against West Linn police and the towing company. He was awarded $600,000.

In February, before being placed on leave, Kruger said he was disturbed by what was laid out in court papers.

"I will not tolerate racial or any other bias in policing," said Kruger.

At the time, Fesser's case got the attention of law enforcement and lawmakers across the state. The district attorney’s offices in Clackamas and Multnomah counties launched investigations, and Gov. Kate Brown ordered the Department of Public Safety Standards and Training (DPSST) to review the case. Oregon senators Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley, along with congressman Earl Blumenauer, asked the U.S. Attorney’s Office to look into the arrest.

The extent of involvement Kruger may have had in the case remains unclear. 

Following Kruger's removal from office, Acting Chief Peter Mahuna will continue in his interim role at the police department. A search for a permanent police chief is expected to begin promptly. 

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