Oregon City Paid Ex-Police Officer $250K to Settle Lawsuit
An officer who made headlines for excessive use of force allegations and a whistleblower lawsuit resigned from the Springfield Police Department at the end of 2020.
Ryan Stone and City Manager Nancy Newton signed a separation agreement on Dec. 31 ending both his employment with the city and his whistleblower lawsuit.
As part of that agreement, which the Register-Guard obtained through a public records request, Stone got $172,186.13 and is receiving free family medical, dental and vision insurance for a year. His attorneys got $77,813.87.
In the lawsuit, filed in April 2019, Stone alleged the city investigated him in retaliation for challenging misconduct among his Springfield Police Department colleagues and that the investigation was negligent.
The two lump sum payments add up to the $250,000 Stone originally asked for in a civil lawsuit, though he upped the amount to $475,000 last year.
The city was only responsible for $105,000 of the settlement, city spokesperson Amber Fossen told the Register-Guard. The remaining $145,000 came from the city’s insurer.
City officials decided to settle for a variety of reasons, Fossen said, including “when separating employment is what’s best for the organization.”
“While there are costs involved, a settlement allows us to mitigate the cost, time and resources it takes to challenge disputed circumstances within the court system,” Fossen said in an emailed statement. “The settlement agreement is a compromise of the disputed claims and not a proceeding that provides a judgment of liability or fault.”
In a statement sent by his attorneys, Stone said he is “proud of the work I was able to do during my years as a Springfield police officer.”
“This settlement will allow me to close a difficult chapter, and for my family and I to move forward after enduring several years of anguishing retaliation for having reported misconduct within the department,” Stone said in the emailed statement.
He added he hopes city officials will “take the opportunity to change the culture within the Police Department so as to recognize and support the honest, hardworking officers who serve this community every day.”
Fossen said the police department has been working to change policies to “emphasize de-escalation and incorporate new police reform statutes passed during special legislative sessions” and is working to improve transparency around incidents involving use of force. Stone was placed on administrative leave in April 2018 but returned to work seven months later when authorities determined they didn’t have enough evidence to prove he “acted with a criminally culpable mental state” when he threw a man to the ground after stopping him for crossing a street against a red light.
Linn County prosecutors, who handled the case, also believed they couldn’t prove that Stone’s actions had caused the man, who suffered a rib injury that was not confirmed to involve any broken bones, a “physical injury” as the term is defined under state law.
The video of the incident, captured on Stone’s dashboard camera, was released in late 2018. It showed Stone wrapping his right arm around a man’s neck and throwing him to the ground after asking him to sit down. The man appears to respond immediately before being grabbed by the officer. Stone subsequently used a stun gun on the man, although that cannot be seen on the video.
The man was incarcerated in the Springfield Municipal Jail but later released after charges of interfering with police and resisting arrest were dropped.
In the lawsuit, Stone alleged he was investigated in retaliation for trying to challenge the misconduct of his Springfield Police Department colleagues, including command staff.
The lawsuit details multiple times Stone says he questioned colleagues’ conduct, including:
.Criticizing Sgt. Dave Lewis for engaging in “unsafe tactics” during a SWAT standoff in the summer of 2016.
.Reporting a number of detectives, including Lewis, for leaving a mandatory training class early in December 2016. The officers had to modify their training hours and called Stone a “snitch” and a “snowflake.”
.Expressing concerns in late 2016 or early 2017 that a lieutenant didn’t self-report leaving his handgun unattended despite it being a violation of policy and having reprimanded another officer for similar conduct.
.Raising safety concerns to Lewis in February 2018 after Lewis’ unsafe tactics “led to a dangerous, unannounced entry into the backyard where Stone was posted.”
The lawsuit also cites many times Stone received positive reviews and awards for service.
Before Stone went on administrative leave, the legal complaint says, he interviewed with Lt. Tom Rappe, the lieutenant who had left his handgun unattended, and Lt. Scott McKee, who has since signed his own separation agreement with the city and filed a notice to sue.
That interview focused on whether Stone had lied about two cases.
After that interview, Stone started “Experiencing severe anxiety symptoms” and was prescribed anti-anxiety medication, according to the complaint.
Not long after that, the city issued a Brady determination questioning his credibility to the county prosecutor despite both McKee and Chief Richard Lewis saying they were no longer concerned about Stone’s credibility, the lawsuit says.
Brady determinations refer to the Brady Disclosure, which requires all officers found to have lied in an official capacity to be put on a list or otherwise flagged, so when they are involved in any court cases that information is disclosed to defendants and attorneys. Essentially, it makes their testimony less than desirable in a case.
Less than a month after that determination was issued, the chief ordered Stone to take a psychological fitness-for-duty exam. Just before he took that, an email notified the SWAT team he was no longer a member.
Days later, the chief told Stone he would be disciplined for his conduct in the two cases for which Rappe and McKee interviewed him. Stone filed a grievance through the union, which was denied, though later arbitration found in his favor.
Despite findings in Stone’s favor, he still was off the teams he served on, and the Brady determination is still in place, the lawsuit says.
Additionally, many officers, “notably those colleagues who were the subject of his misconduct reports or who are closely aligned with those individuals, refer to Officer Stone as ‘rattin’ Ryan,'” the legal complaint reads.
“The department exploited two relatively minor stops involving officer Stone to conduct an unreasonably long and seriously flawed effort to find fault with officer Stone,” the complaint reads.
Stone’s conduct “in no way justified the SPD’s excessive investigative response,” the complaint adds, and the city’s “unreasonably poor investigatory effort” has harmed his reputation and “caused him substantial emotional distress.”
The department focused on ending his career, the complaint argues, because he refused to be “part of the rule-breaking clique.”
In court records, attorneys for the city argued Stone’s reports and concerns didn’t rise to the level of whistleblowing and that his claims of negligence didn’t have a legal basis.
As part of the separation agreement, the city acknowledges three things as of Dec. 31:
- Stone was not subject to disciplinary action or a performance improvement plan.
- Stone was not facing pending/unadjudicated allegations of misconduct or disciplinary action.
- Stone was not the subject of a pending psychological fitness-for-duty evaluation and had been found fit around June 29, 2018.
Under the agreement, Stone also cannot sue the city for the same reasons and cannot apply for any other city position now or in the future.