Pervert Cops Contrast Changes to Bureau's Sexual Assault Unit

Portland Police Chief Rosie Sizer recently announced that she has taken steps to improve the Bureau's sexual assault unit. None too soon, in that some of those being investigated could be the PPB's own members.

The improvements to the unit came about as a result of an audit conducted by, believe it or not, City Auditor Gary Blackmer. The audit found serious difficulties in the unit, including delays of weeks or months before victims were contacted by a detective. Among other defects noted were sloppy documentation, inadequate investigation techniques, failure to pursue suspects who had been identified, and serious lack of follow up with reluctant victims. Chief Sizer doubled the size of the unit to eight and appointed Sgt. Mike Geiger as its head. The Bureau will be requesting approximately $120,000 to hire two civilian sexual assault specialists who will contact victims and make referrals to community resources. It is anticipated that all these measures will result in faster investigations and many more cases being solved than in the past (Oregonian, October 31).

Along with articles about the newly revitalized unit comes news about activities of three Portland Police officers who, it seems, have been preying on vulnerable women. In August, East Precinct Officer Matthew Kohnke (#36269) was placed on paid leave as an investigation against him was conducted. One of the women allegedly harassed by Kohnke lived in a transient camp and was sexually violated by him under the authority of his gun and badge. She has since filed a federal civil rights lawsuit against Kohnke and the City of Portland (Oregonian, October 26). Kohnke allegedly made inappropriate sexual comments to another woman who had come to Oregon after leaving an abusive situation in another state. She had called police to report the theft of a cell phone. During the investigation Kohnke told detectives this woman was not like "the dirt bags" whom he usually contacts. There have also been allegations against Kohnke regarding offenses against at least three other women whom he stopped while on duty (Oregonian, October 30).

In court, Kohnke pleaded no contest to official misconduct, resigned from PPB, and gave up his police certification, which will prevent him from being a law enforcement officer elsewhere in the state. The Bureau's October 26 news release about Kohnke doesn't refer to any specific allegations, such as shining a flashlight down a woman's pants and touching her genitals. Instead the PPB stated twice that "None (of the allegations) include sexual contact." Perhaps Bureau has its own definition of "sexual contact." Kohnke was fined $500, required to do 40 hours of community service, and placed on two years' probation.

Officer Jason Faulk (#34587) was arraigned in early November on two counts of official misconduct after he had sex while on duty with a woman suffering from autism. On November 28, Faulk entered a plea of not guilty. He remains on paid leave, and was ordered to have no contact with the woman, carry no firearms, and continue mental health counseling (Oregonian, November 29). His trial is set for mid-January. An article in the October 11 Oregonian stated that Faulk and his attorney argued that although the woman has autism, she "is not that limited" and was capable of consent, since she lives on her own, is articulate and can read and write.

In PPR #40 we reported on Portland Police Officer David Howe being arrested in November, 2006 during an undercover sting for picking up a prostitute while off-duty. He was previously disciplined in 1999 for failure to radio in his location while he drove a prostitute around town (PPR #22). Years earlier he had been accused of harassing and intimidating exotic dancers (PPR #14). Due to last year's sting, Howe resigned on June 15 and gave up his police certification. The Multnomah County District Attorney's office stated that their investigation was thwarted when Howe was placed on paid leave, so there was no possibility of interviewing him. Howe remains eligible to collect his pension (Oregonian, November 16).

In other instances of officers misusing their authority, Multnomah County paid out $25,000 to Aviv Schwartz, one of the women Deputy Christopher Green asked to "show me your tattoos" during traffic stops (Oregonian, November 14). Green is also on probation for two years, lost his certification, and was fined $2000. We wrote about Green in PPR #40, along with Portland Police Officer John Wood, who similarly had his police certification revoked, was placed on probation and fined for asking women to show him their underwear during traffic stops.

A current investigation is being held into allegations that several Portland officers bought alcohol for underage male and female cadets during training sessions this summer (Oregonian, November 6).

The above instances appear to be a pattern for some officers who use their uniforms, badges and guns to intimidate and violate vulnerable people. Does an officer believe he can victimize a woman who lives in a transient camp because no one would believe her anyway? What about a woman who fled domestic violence by one man and then is subjected to abusive demands by another one wearing a uniform? Chief Sizer is willing to expand the sex crimes unit, but is she going to give mandatory training on sex and abuse of power?

  • The audit of Portland's sex crimes unit found our city ranked 20th out of 21 major cities in handling such cases.
  • In the October/November Rap Sheet, editor Det. Peter Simpson had questions for Kohnke: "What the hell is wrong with you? Do you understand the damage you've done to our collective reputation?... to a police officer's ability to build trust with the most vulnerable in our community?"
  • In Florence, OR, Officer Brian Ferguson, 42, pleaded guilty to sexual abuse of a 16-year-old girl, gave up his police certification, and had to register as a sex offender (Oregonian, September 21).


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