A 19-year veteran of the Redmond Police Department was fired and his reputation ruined for reporting misconduct, the officer claims in a new $5 million wrongful termination lawsuit against his former employer.
Donald “Ryan” Fraker, who worked for Redmond Police from September 2001 until his termination in February 2020, was the subject of an official “conspiracy” to undermine his career, according to the suit filed Friday in Deschutes County Circuit Court.
Fraker’s lawyer, Dan Thenell, told The Bulletin the department suffers from a culture of retaliation against whistleblowers, citing two other officers who quit or were fired after reporting misconduct.
“The City Council should really look into what’s happening ... They should take a lesson from what happened in West Linn,” Thenell said, referring to the Portland suburb entangled in several police-related scandals, including the wrongful arrest of a Black man. “The public is demanding reform but officers who are reporting misconduct are being forced out of the profession.”
The 22-page lawsuit names as defendants several Redmond Police supervisors, including Chief Dave Tarbet, Lt. Eric Beckwith, former president of the Redmond officers union Garland Hicks and administrative Lt. Jesse Petersen, who serves as department spokesman.
Petersen deferred a request for comment on Monday to the city’s communication director, who cited a policy against commenting on pending litigation.
Fraker contends the alleged campaign against him began in late 2018 after he reported a Bend Police officer to supervisors for aggressive behavior observed at a local firing range. Petersen and the officer are members of the region’s interagency SWAT team, the Central Oregon Emergency Response Team, and, according to the suit, are friends.
After Fraker went to the Bend officer’s bosses, Petersen asked Fraker to not interfere with his friends on SWAT again, Fraker claims in the suit.
Several months later, Petersen called Fraker into his office and told him “you’re either with me or against me, and if Fraker was against him, it would “make his ‘D’ come out,’ Petersen allegedly told him.
“Plaintiff took this to mean Lt. Petersen intended to become more aggressive towards him if he continued to push back against the conduct described above,” Fraker’s lawyer wrote in the suit.
In another incident in the summer of 2019, Fraker hosted a 911 dispatcher as a ride-along. He told he the woman she could park in the department parking lot but Redmond Lt. Curtis Chambers allegedly issued her a parking citation during the ride-along. Fraker explained the situation to Chambers, but Fraker claims he was laughed at and told Chambers didn’t care if the woman had permission.
Following this incident, the lawsuit states every lieutenant in the department began treating Fraker poorly and the mistreatment of plaintiff became increasingly more “formal,” the lawsuit states. The suit describes a party involving SWAT team members where officers presented Beckwith with a custom screen-printed pillow adorned with a large picture of Fraker’s face.
“Beckwith began berating the pillow and yelling profanity at it,” the lawsuit states.
Fraker was ultimately fired last February after an internal investigation into his handling of a Nov. 19, 2019 vehicle and foot pursuit that he supervised as a sergeant. He claims Beckwith and others “blindsided” him with an extensive three-hour interview and more than 100 questions in an effort to catch him making inconsistent statements.
The 2019 pursuit incident led to a so-called Brady hearing with Deschutes County District Attorney John Hummel.
In Oregon, district attorneys keep lists of police officers determined to have been untrustworthy in the past, also called Brady lists for the landmark U.S. Supreme court case, Brady v. Maryland.
Hummel opted to add Fraker’s name to his Tier II Brady list, rather than Tier I, meaning that although Fraker’s department considered him untruthful, Hummel did not.
In 2019, former officer Craig McClure sued Redmond for enabling a culture of bullying encouraged by Tarbet, Beckwith and others. His suit, which cited age discrimination against the 42-year-old rookie, settled out of court last year.