West Linn city leaders and police met Tuesday with the black man targeted by a rogue and racist surveillance operation and arrest led by West Linn officers in 2017.

Michael Fesser, who won a $600,000 settlement with the city last month, met with West Linn's current police chief, mayor, city manager and two police captains as part of his settlement agreement.

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"It was just a start in the right direction for healing a change," Fesser told OPB. "This can't keep happening. This can't happen to another black man."

The surveillance began after Fesser reported racial harassment to his boss, Eric Benson, the owner of Southeast Portland’s A&B Towing. Rather than address the concerns, Benson asked his friend, former West Linn Police Chief Terry Timeus, to investigate allegations that Fesser was stealing from the company.

The West Linn police surveilled Fesser and ultimately arrested him on Feb. 25, 2017, with the assistance of five Portland police officers, without probable cause. Fesser sued West Linn and, last month, received the settlement.

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"It is some racism stuff in their community and in the police force at that point, and we have to talk about that. We have to have those hard discussions to move past and move forward," Fesser said. "We can't turn a blind eye."

The private meeting with West Linn officials lasted a little less than two hours. Fesser said he's hoping the meeting serves as the beginning of a series of conversations about racism, not the end. He also said he hopes the city of Portland would join future discussions.

"It's just the first meeting, it's just the start," Fesser said. "I don't want to have it brushed under the rug after a month or two. And I don't want this to be just a checked box, 'hey, we've done this and it's over.'"

West Linn Mayor Russ Axelrod thanked Fesser on Facebook and said he was committed to working with him on a larger conversation about dealing with the past.

I thank Mr. Michael Fesser for sitting down today with us at the City to begin the important work we have ahead. Thank...

Posted by West Linn Mayor Russ Axelrod on Tuesday, March 3, 2020

The U.S. attorney's office in Oregon is investigating the incident after a chorus of elected leaders from practically every aspect of local, state and federal office denounced the incident and demanded accountability.

There has not been evidence to suggest Portland police knew they were engaged in assisting a personal vendetta.

Last month, West Linn officials placed an officer involved in the arrest, Sgt. Tony Reeves, on paid administrative leave, pending the outcome of the investigation.

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