PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — The city of Portland has agreed to pay an African American couple $120,000 to settle a discrimination lawsuit that contended a police officer pulled them over and then broke the key off in the ignition, leaving them stranded.
The Oregonian/OregonLive reports that city officials settled the suit Friday with Claudius and Daynelle Banks.
Officer Christian Berge said he pulled the couple over in March 2015 at 2 a.m. for drifting into oncoming traffic.
Attorneys for the Banks said Berge never filed a report or conducted a field sobriety test.
Berge said he didn’t have time or back-up support to process a drunken driving arrest, so he gave the Banks a warning and allowed them to walk home.
Berge said he accidentally broke the key off not in the ignition, but in the driver’s door lock. He denied searching the vehicle.
“The entire process was so stunningly irregular to call the officer’s motive more than highly questionable,’’ said Greg Kafoury, an attorney for the couple. “It was basically a shakedown, frankly.’’
Court documents say Berge approached the vehicle and ordered, “Get your black (expletive) out of the car.”
Claudius Banks said Berge searched the car, then jerked and twisted the key in the ignition at least three times until it broke. The key fragment remained in the ignition, making it impossible to use another key, the lawsuit said.
The Portland Police Bureau investigated Berge’s handling of the stop and found no wrongdoing.
Berge resigned two years later for having sex on duty with a woman from 2015 to 2017.