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Fired sheriff's recruit awarded $1.4 million in racial bias suit
[Clackamas County, OR]


February 06, 2001
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Fired sheriff's recruit awarded $1.4 million in racial bias suit
[Clackamas County, OR]

February 3, 2001 Saturday Sunrise Edition
Copyright 2001 The Oregonian
The Oregonian
February 3, 2001 Saturday Sunrise Edition

(CLACKAMAS COUNTY, Ore) -- A federal jury found Friday that Clackamas County, its newly elected sheriff and seven deputies should pay more than $1.4 million to an African American recruit who was fired in 1998 after he complained about racial profiling and discrimination in the department.

Carl Bell, 37, of Orlando, Fla., a former Lake Oswego police officer, filed the civil rights lawsuit against the county in 1999. The suit claimed he was discriminated and retaliated against for his objections to departmental practices, including his contention that deputies were stopping Asian, Latino and Russian motorists without probable cause.

Bell was fired for poor job performance during a probationary employment period, according to the Clackamas County Sheriff's Department. He failed the department's Field Training Exercise Program, a yearlong process required of all first-year officers.

After a three-week trial in U.S. District Court and three days of deliberating, the jury returned its verdict at 5 p.m. Friday. The jurors -- eight whites and one African American -- found that the sheriff's department violated Bell's civil rights.

The jury found the defendants, including Clackamas County, Sheriff Pat Detloff and seven deputies, liable for damages.

The award includes $750,000 in compensatory damages and $52,446 for two years of lost wages, according to Bell's lawyers.

While the jury wasn't required to award punitive damages, it found that Detloff should pay $250,000 and the seven deputies should pay $52,446 each, Bell's lawyers said.

John Osburn, a Portland attorney who represented all of the defendants, said he plans to ask the judge to set aside the jury's decision next week. The verdict is considered advisory, and U.S. District Judge John Jelderks is expected to make a formal ruling next week, Bell's lawyers said.

"It is completely contrary to all of the evidence," Osburn said. "They were wrong because Mr. Bell's substandard performance was well-documented."

An Oregon State Police lieutenant and the Marion County Sheriff's Department reviewed Bell's personnel file and performance review, and both "would have terminated Mr. Bell based on his performance," Osburn said.

"It is unfortunate that this jury and this jury alone saw fit to hold people liable who were simply doing their jobs," Osburn said.

During field training, Bell complained to a supervisor that he believed a training officer was engaging in racial profiling.

Bell also alleged that he was the target of racist remarks, including those from a deputy who told Bell to "quit talking like a black person," according to Therese Lavallee, a Bell attorney. Bell alleged that another deputy said he had a "gangsta lean" when driving, and that he had a "rap persona" and acted like a " '50s black person."

Besides Detloff, the other seven defendants are Capt. Mike Machado, Sgt. Alan Alderman, Detective Roxanne Cadotte and deputies Juli Machado, Jeff Davis, Jeff Huva and Jeff Grahn.

Reached at home, Detloff, who was chief deputy at the time of Bell's firing, declined to comment. "I don't want to talk about it tonight," Detloff said. "I'm very upset about it."

The defendants named in the suit were all officers involved in Bell's field training, said Sgt. Damon Coates, a sheriff's spokesman. All, with the exception of Detloff, were in the courtroom when the verdict was delivered.

"The deputies involved in the case are really shocked by the findings based on the facts they're aware of," Coates said, in the department's only official response.

Bell declined to comment on the verdict.

"I know that the trial was extremely difficult on our client," Lavallee said. "He feels very vindicated by the jury's verdict."

Bell, a divorced father of two who now works for a Florida security company, has been in Portland since the trail began Jan. 16, Lavallee said. He plans to return home today.

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