The city of West Linn has released a 100-page investigative report from 12 years ago that shows questionable conduct by a former police chief long before he was implicated in the baseless arrest of a black Portland man in 2017.
Former Chief Terry Timeus was one of the officers responsible for arresting Michael Fesser, who recently received a $600,000 legal settlement from West Linn. That incident is now the subject of multiple investigations, including one led by the U.S. attorney for Oregon, Billy Williams.
The 2008 report stemmed from a complaint lodged by Eric Losness, a former Lake Oswego police officer. The report had been kept private for more than a decade, until city officials released it this week, under pressure from the Portland Tribune, which was the first news organization to report on its findings.
Timeus was investigated for 17 allegations by McMinnville-based law enforcement consultant Rod Brown over conduct dating back to the late 1990s, long before Timeus’ tenure as West Linn police chief.
Most of the allegations center on Timeus’ time as a senior officer at the Lake Oswego Police Department. The report submitted in April 2008 as “confidential” only fully sustained one accusation, that Timeus abused his position by allowing Lake Oswego officers to watch what Brown short-handed as a “live sex show.”
That incident involved officers pulling over two women, who “began to perform sexual acts on one another,” according to the report. Before arresting the driver for driving under the influence of intoxicants, the responding officers attempted unsuccessfully to reach Timeus.
The allegation from Losness said that Timeus told the officers after he’d learned of the incident, “if something like that ever occurred again and they didn’t get in touch with him so he could respond, he would terminate them.” Timeus confirmed the incident, but said his response was “undoubtedly made … in jest.”
The investigation found evidence of other allegations, but classified the behavior as “exonerated” meaning “the alleged action(s) occurred but the action(s) were either proper or not found to be in violation any statute, ordinance, policy or rule.”
“Exonerated” was the report’s conclusion for five allegations, including incidents of drunken driving, retaliation against officers, racism and anti-Semitism, and lying during an internal affairs investigation.
The details of the report show Brown’s difficulty as an investigator in verifying details of the allegations and confirming Timeus’ precise involvement. Brown’s descriptions of interviews suggest that part of his reasoning for declaring allegations “exonerated” was a lack of clarity around what Timeus did. For three allegations, Brown found “sufficient information to deny the alleged action(s) occurred,” leading him to declare them “unfounded.”
The conclusion of Brown’s report suggests excusing some of the behavior described given its context of “the ‘behind the scenes’ culture within any particular police departments.” The report said it does not “justify or condone” the behavior, but intended to convey that “the dialogue often found in the back-rooms of police departments would most often be offensive to a person outside of the industry.”