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Thursday, December 7, 2023
Courthouse News Service
Thursday, December 7, 2023 | Back issues
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Cop Says He Lost Job for Talking to CBS

PORTLAND, Ore. (CN) - A longtime police officer claims Portland forced him to retire because he talked to Dan Rather and "America's Most Wanted" about sex trafficking, child prostitution and the city's inadequate resources to handle the problems.

Doug Justus sued Portland, its Police Chief Mike Reese, Assistant Chief Eric Hendricks, and police Lt. Rachel Andrews, in Federal Court.

Justus says he worked as a Portland Police officer for 25 years, and "established himself as a passionate investigator of human and child sex trafficking cases and a staunch advocate of the role of his work within the larger bureau."

In April 2010, the "Dan Rather Reports" TV show was making a program about human trafficking and interviewed Justus.

"The interview took approximately three hours, during which plaintiff spoke out on the magnitude of the human and sex trafficking crimes in Portland, Oregon, and the allocation of the city's resources to the prevention of related crimes," the complaint states.

After the interview, Justus says, his commander yelled at him because he used the word "blow job," during the interview.

Justus says Rather asked him Justus to take him and the film crew to see local strip clubs, and an assistant police chief, now retired, insisted that a lieutenant chaperone Justus, lest he "embarrass the city."

Justus says he objected to the chaperone, because "it was degrading," and that the commander replied, "You can go on your own but if you embarrass the city, you will be in big trouble."

The "Dan Rather Reports" episode about sex trafficking in Portland aired in May 2010.

"The show's description summarized the episode as a special report about the sex trade and sex trafficking, especially involving children and how Portland police feel understaffed and overwhelmed with the widespread crimes involving young girls being sold for sex," Justus says in his complaint. "The focus was on how Portland is becoming a major center for child trafficking and juveniles are being forced every day to sell their bodies. Plaintiff was the police officer to whom Dan Rather referred in the show's description.

"Soon thereafter, plaintiff learned that the chief's office and the mayor's office were very upset." Justus says that "on the other hand," another police lieutenant "said it was the best show he had seen dealing with human and child sex trafficking."

In August 2010, Justus says, he was assigned to a new supervisor, defendant Lt. Rachel Andrews, who "started harassing and berating" him.

After the Rather report was broadcast, Justus says, "America's Most Wanted" called him to discuss an unsolved missing-child case that Rather had mentioned. Then "Nightline" filmed him on an undercover mission.

Justus claims Lt. Andrews continued to berate him for his work, which he says he went through proper channels to secure.

In October 2010, Andrews filed a formal complaint against him, saying he "had yelled at her and had a problem with alcohol," according to the complaint.

The next month, Justus says, he was set to travel to Washington D.C. to meet with John Walsh, the host of "America's Most Wanted," when Assistant Chief Eric Hendricks told him not to go.

Justus says he insisted that the footage had been examined by prosecutors who had concluded that the episode would not interfere with the ongoing missing child investigation.

He says Hendricks reversed his decision shortly and allowed him to fly to Washington, but had him chaperoned by a police lieutenant so he "wouldn't say anything that would embarrass the Portland Police Bureau." Justus claims he was ordered not to discuss the sex trafficking case that "America's Most Wanted" wanted to talk about.

"On November 16, 2010, the host John Walsh said this had happened only one other time in 25 years and was upset that plaintiff was ordered by city management not to speak out about the missing girl case, which was the point of the show," the complaint states. "Plaintiff was filmed the same day providing censored and circumspect speech on the matter, as ordered."

In December 2010, Justus says, police Internal Affairs investigated him after he expressed interest in a position in the Vice and Drugs Division. He says the investigation was based on Andrews' earlier complaints.

At that point, Justus says, Assistant Chief Hendricks told him that "no matter what the I.A. investigation shows, you will be transferred to the central graveyard shift as a street sergeant where you will spend the rest of your career."

Eight days later, Justus says, he "learned that the charges against him had changed from yelling at Andrews and having a drinking problem to an allegation involving abusing prescription drugs and not following the chain of command."

He adds: "Given Hendricks' statement to plaintiff that he would remain in a patrol car the rest of his career, given the stress and humiliation, given the unbearable and unsafe working conditions, and as a result of the ongoing, continuing pattern of harassment and retaliatory actions taken against him, plaintiff had no reasonable alternative but to retire from the Portland Police Bureau."

Justus resigned on Jan. 13, 2011, after 29 years in the department.

He seeks lost wages and punitive damages for defamation, intentional interference with economic relationship, wrongful firing, retaliation, intentional infliction of emotional distress, due process violations, and whistleblower violations.

He is represented by Charese Rohny.

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