Issues News WLAIC

Public Statement: The Case of Mr. Michael Fesser

The West Linn Alliance for Inclusive Community focuses on promoting equity, inclusiveness, and diversity in West Linn. We were dismayed at the recent revelations of actions that transpired in the case of Mr. Michael Fesser, and the involvement of individual members of the West Linn Police Force.

We fully support the announced legal investigations into this incident. We also support the recent reorganization of the West Linn Police department and its implementation of internal training on implicit bias, diversity, and procedural justice. These actions are a reasonable start to the process of confronting racism, but there is still much to do.

The Fesser incident highlights a failure by both the West Linn Police and the City of West Linn. The actions taken by the police were not in line with protecting the public and providing equal and equitable enforcement of the law. However, the City also failed in its oversight of the Police Department, demonstrating a lack of adequate accountability procedures. The residents of the City paid the price for this in the recent settlement of the Fesser suit. However, the biggest price paid was the reputational damage to our community. 

The Alliance urges the City to review its procedures for ensuring the accountability of the Police Department. Transparency and appropriate oversight can prevent the type of racism documented in the Fesser case from creeping back into the department. We also request that the Police Department exercise due diligence in its internal procedures to monitor the actions of officers that don’t meet the standards of equal and unbiased law enforcement.  We also urge the Police Department to provide a periodic public accounting of its progress in this area. 

The Alliance recognizes that responsibility for preventing a miscarriage of justice like the Fesser case rests with the police, the City, and the community. We are all part of West Linn, and ultimately, we all are responsible for determining what kind of community we want to be. We understand that bias and unconscious bias often set the stage for more overt or even criminal acts of discrimination. We remind ourselves and the community that when bias at any level becomes accepted, it inevitably provides fertile ground for the escalation of racist and discriminatory actions.   

We hope that the unacceptable practices revealed in the Fesser case have been rooted out of our West Linn Police Department. The Police Department and the City need to consider how to monitor law enforcement activity to keep it free of racism and discrimination. They also need to provide public transparency that can let West Linn citizens rest assured that law enforcement in our City is being conducted in an appropriate and unbiased manner.

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