SEATTLE -- The City of Medina will have to pay its former police chief more than $2 million for racial discrimination and denying him due process. The eight-person federal jury also said City Manager, Donna Hanson, who fired Jeffrey Chen in 2011, should pay $25,000 in punitive damages.
Chen was supported by a minority of the City Council and many residents, who considered him an exemplary police chief. Chen said he wished it didn't have to go to federal court, but he said he had to stand up for what was right.
"Years ago when I decided to become a police officer, I took an oath to stand up for the laws of this country," said Chen. "I could not allow a violation of my civil rights to go unchecked."
The city had the choice to settle, said Chen's attorney, Marianne Jones. "At no time did the City Council or Donna Hanson come to us and say 'Let's put a stop to this. Let's not go to federal court."
A former and a current City Council member were also present when the jury's verdict was read. Shawn Whitney, a former Deputy Mayor, and Janie Lee, who's currently on the Council, say their words of caution were ignored.
"Janie and I questioned what was happening, we tried to voice opinions, we tried to convince people and they would not hear us, they would not listen, they didn't let us participate," said Whitney.
"Today's victory is not just for Jeff, although it's a huge one for him," said Lee. "It's also (a victory) for the citizens of Medina who thought that the process was not right."
Since his dismissal, Chen testified that he has been unable to find a job because the action "tarnished" his reputation. He hopes to get his chief position in Medina back.
An attorney for the City of Medina said the case "is not over." Kari Sand said the city "will continue to review its position."