Multnomah County sheriff moves to fire problem deputy
Bernie Giusto wants to remove the cop accused of inappropriate searches of women during traffic stops
Multnomah County sheriff's deputy Christopher Green, already facing a reopened criminal investigation by the district attorney's office on new allegations of what the office called 'bizarre and disturbing' conduct toward women during traffic stops, was placed on administrative leave with pay Monday while Sheriff Bernie Giusto tries to strip him of his Oregon police certification.
Giusto said Monday he also reopened his own investigation into Green's conduct. A number of women between ages 23 and 43 came forward beginning in 2004 accusing Green of having them lift their shirts, unfasten their bras or unzip their pants as he looked for a flower tattoo.
An initial sheriff's office investigation in late 2004 and early 2005 found that there were no suspects matching that description and that Green lied to at least one supervisor when questioned about his actions.
'The basic question is whether or not I can retain this person's employment,' said Giusto, who said he plans to ask the state Board of Public Safety Standards and Training for permission to seek the revocation of Green's police certification.
Green could not be reached for comment Monday. His union president, Detective Todd Shanks, declined comment when reached by phone.
After reviewing the sheriff's initial investigation, the district attorney's office notified Giusto - verbally in April and formally in a letter last week - that it would no longer call Green to testify in criminal cases absent extraordinary circumstances.
Suspended without pay at one point - the sheriff's office has declined to say precisely when or for how long - Green returned to patrol after he served his suspension. Giusto transferred him to a training unit shortly before receiving District Attorney Michael Schrunk's letter, dated Sept. 11.
But Giusto said Monday he decided to seek stiffer penalties against Green after giving the matter more thought and speaking at length to Schrunk on Sunday night.
Schrunk confirmed the conversation and that Green was its subject but declined to offer details.
'I would not talk to you about any conversation I had or didn't have with the sheriff about pending cases,' he said.
Giusto said he plans to ask the Board of Public Safety Standards and Training to revoke Green's police certification, which could be grounds to fire the deputy.
He said he hopes to know whether he can do that by the end of the week.
'I can't just fire him,' Giusto said. 'I have nothing to fire him for. Discipline has already been issued for the original information we had, and you have to have progressive discipline as well. I have to try a few other things here. I've got to be smarter than tougher.'
Problems for DA's office
Having a law-enforcement officer barred from testifying in criminal cases means havoc within the officer's agency, the possible derailment of the officer's career and turmoil within the district attorney's office on any cases of which the officer is a part.
'If the DA's office won't accept cases from one of our law-enforcement officers, we can't obviously have them in a position where they could be doing cases,' said sheriff's office spokesman Lt. Jason Gates.
Coincidentally, Gates was Green's supervisor at the time of the 2004 allegations. According to an internal district attorney's office memo dated March 4, 2005, Green lied to Gates when Gates questioned him about his conduct. Green called Gates five days later and admitted his untruthfulness, according to the memo.
Gates declined to discuss his involvement.
Giusto said such decisions by the district attorney's office do not impact how he runs his agency, but it does raise serious questions for him.
'The ethical dilemma is what can the public expect for its money while getting less than full service from this individual,' he said. 'In the end, you have one person who's not totally effective based on his capabilities and training and also based on what the public is paying for.'
Computer alert created
But the hard decisions and dilemmas affect the district attorney's office as well. Chief Deputy District Attorney Norm Frink said his office has had to drop criminal cases because they would have relied too heavily on Green's testimony.
E-mails released by the district attorney's office in response to a Portland Tribune public-records request show confusion, frustration and the resolute belief that Green's presence would result in lost cases.
As cases came in from Green, Deputy District Attorney Nicole Jergovic asked her boss, Senior Deputy District Attorney Fred Lenzser, how to deal with them. Lenzser forwarded her May 22 e-mail two days later to Frink, who lamented the quandary.
'Regrettably he continues in assignments that produce these results,' Frink wrote.
Prosecutors went to great lengths to avoid needing Green.
'If he is at any crash scene, the (prosecutor) at the scene is to order him off the scene (through the scene supervisor) and will also inform the supervisor that Green is not to have a role in the investigation. … Green is not to have a role in any of our investigations,' Senior Deputy District Attorney Chuck Sparks wrote May 5.
Later the same day, Senior Deputy District Attorney J. Russell Ratto e-mailed Frink to say he had asked an investigator on the Regional Organized Crime and Narcotics task force to tell him if Green was involved in any task force case.
In addition, a special case number has been generated in the internal district attorney's office computer system warning prosecutors away from Green.
'Do not issue cases with this witness,' a note on the file reads. 'See Norm.'
To read the documents referenced in this article, click the links below.
Internal prosecutor's office memo regarding Green (in three parts):
Internal prosecutor's office e-mails regarding Green:
Letter from District Attorney Michael Schrunk to Multnomah County Sheriff Bernie Giusto