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Friday, May 17, 2024 | Back issues
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Judge Finds UO Police Targeted Whistleblower

PORTLAND, Ore. (CN) - University of Oregon Police Chief Carolyn McDermed and two others intentionally and maliciously harmed a young officer's career after he spoke out about department policies allowing officers to carry Tasers and the department's violations of laws, a federal judge found.

James Cleavenger sued McDermed, Lt. Brandon Lebrecht and Sgt. Scott Cameron in 2013, claiming they dashed his childhood dream of becoming a police chief by placing him on a list of officers considered too untrustworthy to testify in court - all because Cleavenger exposed the department's juvenile and unprofessional practices.

Cleavenger, who is a graduate of the university's law program and now clerks for U.S. District Judge Michael McShane, filed a pro se lawsuit against the school. The university was later dismissed and Portland attorney Jason Kafoury wound up taking over the case.

Cleavenger won a $755,000 jury trial in October, but lawyers for the university's police brass asked for judgment as a matter of law or a new trial.

Andrea Coit, with Harrang Long in Eugene, represented the school's police force. She did not reture a phone call requesting comment.

U.S. District Judge David O. Carter agreed with Kafoury's arguments on every point, finding on Monday that McDermed, Lebrecht and Cameron showed severe retaliatory intent and dishonesty and caused deep economic harm to Cleavenger.

"This is a loud and clear message that the University of Oregon needs to get new leadership in that police department," Kafoury said.

McDermed announced her resignation on Friday. She will be temporarily replaced by former University of Oregon Police Capt. Pete Deshpande, even though Deshpande participated in putting Clevenger on the list that destroyed his law enforcement career, according to evidence at trial.

Deshpande had never met Cleavenger but approved his termination by McDermed back in the fall of 2012.

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