“Back the blue” enthusiasts—as well as a lot of media outlets—often make the mistake of taking things at face value because they’re in a police report or because law enforcement officials said it themselves. “If a cop said it then it must be true” represents a mentality that needs to die and one that is never more dangerous than when it’s adopted by other police officers.
Last year, The Root reported on the story of Portland, Ore., Black man Michael Fesser, who was arrested and fired from his job at A&B Towing in 2017 after he complained about a racist and hostile work environment and his boss and owner of the company, Eric Benson, responded by being racist and hostile AF. Benson apparently decided that a better way to deal with allegations of racism was to have his Black employee investigated for fictional theft he only fictionally committed.
The Oregonian reports that the findings of a recent independent investigation conducted by the Office of the City Auditor into the incident were released Wednesday. The report detailed how the West Linn police officers who arrested Fesser relied solely on the word of a single police officer, Mike Stradley, who was a lieutenant at the department at the time. This proved to be problematic for a number of reasons, the most crucial among them being that Stradley, like Benson, is a lying-ass racist.
Following a non-investigation into bullshit allegations that Fesser had stolen money from his employer, Stradley had gang enforcement officers assist in Fesser’s wrongful arrest and told them that he was gang-affiliated and possibly dangerous. Later, Stradley admitted in a sworn deposition that “he hadn’t had contact with Fesser for more than 20 years and had no direct knowledge that Fesser was tied to a gang,” and that he “acknowledged that he knew only that Fesser had been seen with gang members two decades earlier and had attended trials of known gang members,” the Oregonian reports.
Here’s some of what the new investigation found as reported by the Oregonian:
“Even as PPB officers complied with applicable Directive and followed normal procedures, they unwittingly helped arrest a man based on a deeply flawed criminal investigation, launched under murky circumstances and carried out by a (West Linn Police) detective who appears to have engaged in multiple and serious acts of misconduct,” the office’s investigators noted.
Investigators said police shouldn’t be required to “reestablish” probable cause for an arrest when they help an outside agency, but they need to do “some measure of due diligence” to evaluate other agencies’ requests for help.
“This incident is a powerful example of how the criminal justice system can be turned against an individual by a very small number of bad actors operating inappropriately,” the review said.
Here’s why the “small number of bad actors” narrative is bullshit: Stradley didn’t act alone. According to the report, the officers who arrested Fesser didn’t even bother questioning where the dubious information they were working with came from—that makes them complicit. And, according to The Oregonian, “nearly all the Portland police officers interviewed relayed how Stradley was held in high esteem in the Police Bureau.”
Listen: Stradley didn’t become a Klan member with a badge overnight. I refuse to believe that a man who could do something this egregious never showed signs of being a racist and corrupt asshole before this incident. The “bad apples that spoil the bunch” aren’t just the cops responsible for misconduct—they are also the cops who are proud members of the good-old-boy club that normalizes cops like Stradley.
One could easily argue that Stradley was trying to get Fesser killed. According to a police report, he told Portland police to be on high alert because Fesser had made threats of violence towards his boss and coworkers. Later he admitted under oath that he didn’t actually know of any threats made against Benson who also testified that he wasn’t physically threatened.
Stradley is now retired from the police department and is currently working for the state Department of Public Safety Standards and Training. He has been on paid leave for more than a year while he’s been under investigation behind Fesser’s arrest since Feb. 13 of last year. (Because what better way to reward racism and clear police misconduct than with a long-ass paid vacation?)
Since you currently might be about to throw your phone into a wall out of anger, I’ll end on a high note.
As we previously reported, Fesser received $600,000 from his lawsuit against the city of West Linn and another $415,000 from his suit against his former employer.
It isn’t justice, but if all one can do is make officials and Klan-ish employers say “Sorry, I’m racist” with their wallets, so be it.