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Former Police Officer, Convicted of Sex Crimes, Sues Christian Rehab Organization

Tuesday, January 27, 2015


A former Salem police officer, once convicted of sex crimes, is suing a thrift shop run by a Christian rehab organization for racial discrimination.

Sterling Alexander was convicted in 2007 for sexually abusing a 17-year-old girl and a city employee while serving on the Salem Police Department. During the investigation, he accused the department of racial discrimination. 

Alexander is suing the Pacific Northwest section of Teen Challenge International, a Christian faith-based addiction recovery service, after he applied for a position at a thrift store run by the organization. In his lawsuit he claimed that the organization did not hire him because of his race.

The Complaint

Alexander, who is black, applied for a job at the Salem Teen Challenge thrift store on Dec. 5, 2013, according to a complaint filed at the Federal Court on Jan. 20, 2015. After a series of formal and informal interviews, Alexander was told he would be hired as an assistant manager and would start the job Jan. 9, 2014, the lawsuit states.  

When Alexander was told he would have to undergo a criminal background check, he disclosed his previous convictions for sex offenses and criminal misconduct to an employee, according to court documents. The employee said many of the organization’s employees had criminal backgrounds as well. 

Alexander met the Vice President of Development, Rodger Snodgrass, who told Alexander he had the “business experience and entrepreneurial spirit they needed,” but first had to get approval from the Teen Challenge board, the lawsuit states.

Two days later, Alexander was contacted by the store and told he was an insurance liability because of his criminal background and would not be hired, documents state.

Alexander wrote to the organization, pointing out a Teen Challenge employee that he knew was a sex offender, and asked for reconsideration. The store kept their position. Alexander believed he was turned down because of his race or color, which was identified on the background report shown to the Teen Challenge board, according to the lawsuit.

Alexander is asking for $33,700 for economic damages and $150,000 in non-economic damages.

Teen Challenge

Teen Challenge International, based in Missouri, has around 200 centers around the country and four in Oregon. The centers provide transitional housing for adults and teens recovering from drugs, alcohol and other forms of addiction, Snodgrass said. Their thrift stores are used for vocational training and fundraising for the organization. 

Snodgrass said he was not aware of the suit, but did remember the incident. He said Alexander was not discriminated against. 

“Absolutely not true,” Snodgrass said. “His background check came back and based on what we found we were not able to hire him.”  

Shortly after resigning from the Salem Police in 2004, Alexander filed a civil rights suit against the Department with the NAACP. He claimed the he had faced racial discrimination and slurs from the department. Leading up to the trial, supporters of Alexander claimed the sex crimes allegations were retaliation for the civil rights suit. 

Alexander’s discrimination complaint was filed by attorney Kevin Lafky and the Salem law firm that handled Alexander’s sex crimes case. Lafkey was suspended from the bar for four months in 2011, after admitting to ethics violations and using a client’s money before earning it. 


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