West Linn, OR – A former West Linn police officer accused of making racist comments on social media will receive at least $100,000 in lost wages after an arbitrator determined that higher-ranking officers in the department were aware of his social media posts but did not tell the officer to delete them.
West Linn Police Officer Tom Newberry, 65, was fired by the city on Feb. 22, 2017.
His firing came after after an internal investigation found that he had violated the department’s personnel policies and the criminal justice code of ethics, arbitrator Eric Lindauer noted in his opinion and order.
On Mar. 1, 2017, the Clackamas County Peace Officers’ Association filed a grievance on the former officer’s behalf, and contended that he had been fired without just cause, which paved the way to the arbitration process.
According to Lindauer’s report, an internal investigation into the posts began in July of 2016, after local news agencies contacted the city of West Linn and police department administrators to ask for their response with regards to the content Officer Newberry had posted between February of 2016 and July of 2016.
Lindauer reviewed the 131 posts in question, and determined that some of them showed a racial bias against African Americans, while others expressed hostility towards the Black Lives Matter movement, The Oregonian reported.
“So Day of target practice?” Officer Newberry wrote along with a repost of an article warning that Black Lives Matter was planning “Day of Rage” protests to take place on July 15, 2017.
“When encountering such mobs remember, there are 3 pedals on your floor,” he wrote in another post about another violent Black Lives Matter protest. “Push the right one all the way down.”
Officer Newberry also reposted an article about the Black Panther group’s alleged plot to create a new nation, and commented, “Good luck with that!”
When Black Lives Matter issued a statement denying accountability for a mass shooting of Dallas police officers, Officer Newberry blasted, “Hell no! You’ve been yelling 'FIRE!' in the crowded theatre and finally got the fatal stampede you wanted. Don’t puss out now!”
The officer also expressed his frustration with regards to an article discussing Portland State students’ demand that police be disarmed. The repost showed a photo of individuals lying in the roadway, blocking traffic to gain attention for their cause.
“Where’s a pissed off redneck in a Kenworth when you need one?” Officer Newberry wrote in reference to the “die-in.”
He also came under attack for a post he wrote in reference to his time working in “The Hood.”
“The first thing out of any of the usual suspects mouth was usually some variant of the ‘racist’ gambit,” he explained. “Since I had mastered the ‘I don’t give a shit what you think,’ I always pointed out that ‘Being called a racist by someone like you is a badge of honor!’ Usually took the wind out of their sails.”
According to the arbitrator’s opinion and order, Officer Newberry also referred to anti-police supporters as “ghetto rats,” “-sshats,” “morons,” “b---hes,” “f--ktards,” and “cockroaches,” in various posts.
Officer Newberry admitted that he posted the content, which Lindauer agreed violated the department’s policy regarding speech or expression with the potential to damage the police department’s reputation, The Oregonian reported.
The officer also told internal investigators that his posts were taken out of context and “misconstrued” by individuals with biases against police.
Lindauer disagreed with Officer Newberry’s explanation, and argued that the “disrespectful” and “unnecessarily vulgar” posts “significantly undermined the public trust in the police department,” The Oregonian reported.
"A fair review of Newberry's postings would lead a reasonable person to conclude that the person making the posts demonstrated a racist ideology," he said.
“[Officer Newberry] showed no regret and was unapologetic and offensive throughout” the internal investigation,” Lindauer added.
Lindauer noted that Officer Newberry’s then-supervisor, Sergeant Dave Kempas, did not tell the officer to delete his posts, and expressed approval of the statements in some cases.
Other superior officers, including then-Chief of Police Terry Timeus, Sergeant Mike Francis, and Captain Neil Hennelly, had “liked” or issued responses to some of the social media posts, Lindauer concluded.
"Therefore, the Department must bear some economic responsibility for its failure to follow its own policies," the arbitrator wrote.
Newberry, an eight-year member of the department, had previously served as a Portland police officer for 16 years, The Oregonian reported.
According to Lindauer’s opinion, Newberry “shall be awarded his back pay from the…date of his termination, to the date of the Order.”
According to The Oregonian, Newberry was receiving a salary of $82,000 per year when his employment was terminated, and is owed over $116,000 in salary alone for the 17 months outlined by Lindauer.
West Linn City spokeswoman Courtney Flynn said the city will appeal the ruling, The Oregonian reported.