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Associated Press
Published: 08 March 2022

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — A class-action lawsuit has been filed against the Oregon State Police and Trooper Travis Peterson accusing them of racial discrimination and other forms of misconduct.

Confronting racial profiling

The lawsuit, filed on behalf of eight people, claims Peterson pulled them over in the Rogue Valley along Interstate 5 for minor traffic violations in order to search their vehicles for drugs or money, Oregon Public Broadcasting reported. In one instance, a plaintiff alleges he was pulled over because his passenger side seat was reclined too far back.

Attorney Justin Rosas said they are suing to hold Peterson accountable, but also “to try and confront the scheme of policing that allows someone to racially profile people on the interstate.”

In addition, Rosas says his office received a memo in September from the Jackson County District Attorney’s office showing that Peterson "had hidden, or not reported, roughly one third of his traffic stops throughout the nine months that they looked,” Rosas said.

Jackson County's retort

Jackson County District Attorney Beth Heckert said they have no evidence of racial discrimination by Peterson and that there's no indication he was trying to be deceptive by not reporting his stops.

Oregon State Police said the agency takes allegations of racial discrimination seriously. Their statement also said the eight plaintiffs were charged with crimes as a result of the traffic stops.

Rosas said those charges were dropped after the searches were found to be unconstitutional.

Peterson is currently on unrelated paid leave.

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