At long last a former Oregon sheriff’s deputy has seen justice for the smear tactics that cost him his job and ability to work as a law enforcement officer. Whether he will ever see the monetary award is an unknown, especially if the sheriff’s office appeals, but at least, technically, he’s won.
This article does not detail the hardship this has caused for the deputy and his family, but the situation has been intense. This is a case of an officer who got in trouble for doing his job and who refused to participate in a cover-up to help out his bosses’ buddy.
From personal experience I know the damage that superiors in law enforcement with something to hide can do. You become the fall guy, and it doesn’t matter how hard their actions hit you medically, financially, and so on– what matters to them is covering their tracks and keeping their secrets out of the light.
Thankfully the jury in this case examined the evidence and vindicated Deputy Franklin. Thank God there will be some justice in this case, because he and his family didn’t deserve what happened to them. I hope this is just the beginning of the blessings that are to come their way.
Links to an interview with Franklin and a video of the traffic stop appear toward the bottom of this post.
Former deputy wins federal case
Jury awards economic damages in case stemming from arrest of retired deputy
By Sanne Specht
October 26, 2011 2:00 AM
A former Jackson County sheriff’s deputy was awarded more than $200,000 by a federal jury Tuesday, in a case in which he claimed he was fired because of his 2009 arrest of a retired deputy near Gold Hill.
The jury in Medford’s U.S. District Court deliberated for about two hours before unanimously deciding to award Jacob Franklin $209,492 in economic damages, said Franklin’s Portland attorney, Charles Merten.
Franklin, 38, said he was fired April 7, 2009, because on March 31 he arrested Ron Oachs, a former sheriff’s deputy and friend of his superior officers.
Franklin also said his law enforcement career has been ruined because of false information on an internal affairs investigation.
“They absolutely destroyed my name,” Franklin said. “But today the jury concluded I was terminated because of who I arrested. Not because I arrested him.”
Franklin said he had a short but exemplary record with the Jackson County Sheriff’s Department until the day he stopped Oachs.
Oachs, a retired 20-year veteran of the same department, was stopped near exit 43 on Interstate 5 for endangering an emergency vehicle.
Oachs left his pickup, approached Franklin and refused to comply with his orders, Franklin said. When Oachs went to pull something out of the top pocket of his overalls, the two tussled.
“His hands went up to my face,” Franklin said.
Another deputy witnessed the fray and helped subdue the 6-foot-2-inch, 265-pound Oachs, whom Franklin ultimately arrested for assault, battery, resisting arrest and interfering with a police officer, Merten said.
Franklin didn’t know whether Oachs had a knife or a gun in his pocket. But his client knew the big man was angry and non-compliant, Merten said.
“It took two sets of handcuffs to contain Oachs,” Merten said.
Franklin would soon discover that Oachs and his wife were friends with his superior officers. Over his objections, Franklin was ordered to release Oachs and remove all references to their fight, probable cause and anything that would be a problem for Oachs, Franklin said.
“I said, ‘I’m not going to do it,'” Franklin said, adding his commanding officer said, “‘You are going to do this.’ So I took it all out.”
Sheriff Mike Winters declined to be interviewed by the Mail Tribune, referring all comments to County Counsel Ryan Kirchoff, according to a sheriff’s spokeswoman. Kirchoff was out of the office and did not immediately return a phone call late Tuesday afternoon.
According to court documents, Winters said Franklin showed a pattern of violating state law in his traffic stops and overaggressive behavior during his arrests.
Earlier that year, Franklin had made a traffic stop on state Sen. Doug Whitsett, R-Klamath Falls, illegally ordering him to remain in his vehicle. The senator complained about Franklin to Winters, who said he instructed his deputy that “under Oregon law, motorists could get out of their vehicles during traffic stops, and absent unusual circumstances, law enforcement officials have no lawful authority to order motorists back inside their vehicles,” Winters said in his court deposition.
Winters said Oachs was retired before Winters was elected sheriff. He said he reviewed the video of Franklin’s traffic stop of Oachs “a number of times.” Oachs was out of his vehicle, should have been more compliant and was visibly irritated. But Franklin crossed the line with his actions, Winters said.
When Oachs was searching for his license, Franklin “abruptly grabbed him without warning and attempted to forcibly take him to the ground,” Winters said.
“I could hardly believe what I saw in the video,” Winters said.
Winters said in court documents Oachs threatened to sue Jackson County. “Since I firmly believed (Franklin) violated Oachs’ Fourth Amendment rights and that a judge and jury would find in Oachs’ favor at trial, I elected to have county counsel settle Oachs’ claim expeditiously and in order to avoid a lawsuit and the added taxpayer expense associated therewith.”
Oachs was paid $30,000 in a July 2009 settlement, Merten said.
Merten said it was the police video, along with witness testimony and other evidence, that persuaded the jury to rule in Franklin’s favor.
The internal affairs investigation contained retaliatory information that was added after Franklin was terminated, and in violation of court orders that the document be sealed, Merten said.
“I told the jury it was bull,” he said.
Franklin has a wife and four sons. He has been unable to find work as a police officer because the allegations in the internal affairs investigation continue to shadow him.
“They created this to protect themselves,” Franklin said. “… And the only way they could do that was to destroy me.”
Reach reporter Sanne Specht at 541-776-4497 or e-mail email@example.com.
A KMED radio interview with Deputy Franklin is at ://www.oregonedeals.com/podcast/media/2011-11-01_11-01-11-tuesday-8am.mp3. Please note that this will probably open your Windows Media Player. You can access this and additional broadcasts about this case from the Bill Meyer Show at http://www.oregonedeals.com/podcast/?p=archive.
The actual video of the traffic stop is here:
The suspect immediately exited his vehicle and displayed unsafe behavior, ignoring the deputy’s commands. Many cops have been hurt and killed in this type of situation.
As a reminder of the dangers of this job, preliminary 2011 fatality statistics have been posted at the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund website, http://www.nleomf.org/facts/officer-fatalities-data/.
©2011 H. Hiatt/wildninja.wordpress.com. All
articles/posts on this blog are copyrighted original material that may not be
reproduced in part or whole in any electronic or printed medium without prior
permission from H. Hiatt/wildninja.wordpress.com.
2 thoughts on “Vindication”
Thanks for stopping by. I made a one word edit to your post.
No one wants to be treated this way, you’re right. I would investigate if this happened to me or someone I’m close to and not just accept it as it went down. I just don’t have a lot of empathy for Oachs because he was unwise to exit his vehicle and show attitude. Had he stayed in his vehicle, this probably wouldn’t have happened. That is a major officer safety red flag, and there are cops who would have had their weapons drawn at that point.
While I can’t say that what went down was brilliant or textbook, I am glad that Franklin was able to go home to his family that night. Some cops in these close quarters situations never do. I asked myself what I would do in that situation if I were a cop and my inclination would be to maintain control for safety reasons. I don’t know what that guy’s reaching for or why he’s so cocky.
It’s what happened after this that is the lingering issue. I would be fine with Franklin being disciplined for doing something wrong. As a survivor of officer-involved domestic violence, I have very strong beliefs about police accountability. VERY strong, as you’ll see elsewhere on my blog. However, no taxpayer should be okay with any sort of coverup on behalf of a public servant’s buddy or making an officer look worse than he is. I’ve been through something similar and know how hard it is to fight an agency that’s trying to cover its behind.
I want to answer your last sentence but am not sure I understand. I think you’re saying that the court didn’t rule in Franklin’s favor on all counts and you’re correct. The jury did award him about $200,000 though, which he may never see and which might be sucked up by attorney fees. So he did win on that count, and that count is vindication, an acknowledgment that he suffered an injustice.
It’s difficult to see both sides in these issues sometimes. My bottom line, though, is that even if Franklin did something blatantly evil that could not be justified by any stretch of the imagination, his superiors still shouldn’t have misrepresented, altered, or otherwise messed with the case in the ways they are alleged to have done.
Too much is made about being a retired deputy with the same department and would you want your brother, sister, wife, son treated in this manner. This was a traffice violation stop and mr. Oachs was not a suspect in a robbery or murder case. Incidently had this been a minority instead of a former officer Jesse Jackson would have been on the first flight down to support his brother. The court upheld the High sheriffs right to fire Deputy Franklin but that it erred in the internal investigation which the sheriff agreed mistakes had been made.