| Who's Copping A Feel? |
IMAGE: CHAD CROWE
Portland Police Officer John Wood asked to see the panties of two women during a traffic stop, while Multnomah County Sheriff's Deputy Christopher Green used the excuse he was looking for a suspect with a tattoo to get women to lift their shirts or unzip their pants.
But a WW analysis of state records shows those two officers are just the latest examples of a longer-term problem—and one of the biggest reasons Oregon police and corrections officers lose their state law enforcement and corrections licenses: sex-related crimes and misconduct.
Sexual transgressions, from groping to rape, cost more than one in three ousted officers in Oregon their jobs, WW found. Both Wood and Green resigned last month and relinquished their police certifications as part of plea agreements.
Other officers were booted for things like using drugs, beating up their wives and girlfriends, falling asleep on the job, and falsifying reports.
Usually, information about problem officers in Oregon is hard to come by. Internal police department discipline is frequently not subject to public disclosure under state law. But when the conduct of a police officer (or firefighter, dispatcher or corrections officer) causes his or her state license to be revoked, that information does become public—though what the state Department of Public Safety Standards and Training usually releases about the revocation is not very transparent.
The department, which is responsible for issuing and revoking the licenses of public safety officers, publishes a monthly ethics bulletin that gives paragraph-long descriptions of the incidents that led to revocations. But the bulletin does not give the officer's name or agency.
That's "out of courtesy to the officers," says department spokeswoman Jeanine Hohn. The bulletin is not intended to be a disclosure of wrongdoing but to let other officers "identify behaviors that are inappropriate," she says.
However, using a database of license revocations and denials obtained under state public records law, WW matched the names of many fired officers with their misdeeds.
In but one example we found, Portland officer John Rebman had his license revoked in May for arranging while on duty to meet prostitutes after work and using his police radio to avoid detection.
The database obtained by WW contained 426 cases dating back to 1993. We were able to match 242 of the officers with specific offenses dating back to 2002. Of those, more than one-third—83—were sex-related crimes and misconduct, including incest, rape and possession of child pornography. Another 15 involved inappropriate relationships with inmates where it was unclear from the brief bulletin descriptions whether the relationship was sexual.
During that same period, only seven officers lost their licenses for incidents that involved excessive force—and, in many of those cases, the officer was also sanctioned for lying.
Not surprisingly, the largest agencies in the state reported the most revocations, with the state Department of Corrections, Portland Police Bureau and Oregon State Police leading the pack. The total number of officers losing their licenses, however, make up a very small percentage, about 4 percent, of the 11,640 licensed officers in the state.
News intern Alice Joy contributed to this report. To read the ethics bulletins, surf over to oregon.gov/DPSST/publications_more_2.shtml
Number of Incidents since 2002
Non-sexual CRIME: 57 (24%)
SEX-RELATED: 83 (34%)
RELATIONS WITH INMATE: 15 (6%)
POOR PERFORMANCE: 39 (16%)
MISCONDUCT: 48 (20%)
Source: Oregon Department of Public Safety Standards and Training
Reasons for revocations: From state summaries, WW sorted the reasons officers were fired into several broad categories: committing NON-SEXUAL CRIMES, such as multiple DUIs; INAPPROPRIATE RELATIONS with an inmate; ON-THE-JOB MISCONDUCT, such as falsifying reports or using excessive force; POOR PERFORMANCE, such as sleeping on the job or poor attendance; and SEX-RELATED INCIDENTS, from having sex on duty to being convicted of rape.