Records shed new light on case of ousted Portland cop
At 10:13 p.m. on Aug. 5, 2015, a man called 911 to report the woman next door for screaming while throwing things against her apartment wall.
For Portland police officer Christian Berge, that call marked the start of a nearly two-year relationship with the subject of the complaint, one featuring numerous on-duty sex stops made while he was supposed to be patrolling North Portland on the night shift, police records show.
Last month, Berge pleaded guilty to a single count of misusing his position, known as official misconduct, and agreed to resign from the Portland Police Bureau whlle surrendering his law enforcement certification.
The rapid plea deal sparked a brief single-day blip of media coverage, with almost no details released about the case — aside from a prosecutor's wry observation about Berge to The Oregonian that "When he was supposed to be serving and protecting, he was fornicating.''
Newly released records obtained by the Portland Tribune point to a story stranger than that. After the woman reportedly learned the cop had another girlfriend and ended things, she made an anonymous call accusing Berge of "inappropriate use of force in the community" and in a relationship —apparently not realizing detectives would track her down and investigate.
This appeared to put her in a difficult position. The woman, whose name was redacted from records released to the Tribune, had applied for a job at the Portland Police Bureau — listing Berge as a reference.
In messages between the two that were later reviewed by authorities, it appeared that role-playing forcible behavior was regularly a part of their consensual relationship. Messages referred to choking, hair-pulling and handcuffs.
In a Sept. 5 email to Berge copied to city officials, the woman said she would go public with allegations of rape — a claim she'd not made previously — if she did not "get in," apparently referring to being hired by the Portland Police Bureau.
Law enforcement officials say the numerous text messages received from the woman regarding her relationship with Berge included no evidence that anything non-consensual happened between the two.
"We received evidence documenting in graphic terms a long-term consensual relationship," said Chief Deputy District Attorney Don Rees. As for the mention of rape the woman made in her Sept. 5, 2017, email to Berge — one that she copied city officials on, which referenced her application for work at the bureau — Rees said "that statement is contradicted by all of the other messages."
"That was not an allegation she was making to the internal affairs investigators or ... the detectives working on the case," he added. "Had she been making such an allegation, that would have been pursued."
Multiple on-duty visits
After Berge responded to the August 2015 disturbance call about the woman, he informed dispatchers that no crime had occurred — writing that the neighbor "makes false or very small complaints to police about noise."
He'd divorced his wife two months earlier. A week after the call, the officer ran the woman's license plate while making a two-minute stop near her apartment. The two began texting five days later.
Using GPS, investigators later mapped out more than 20 on-duty visits by Berge to the woman's North Portland apartment while on the clock, lasting from a brief stop to more than one hour in some cases. Once he visited twice in one day, shortly before the end of one shift and about 20 minutes after he started another at 10 p.m.
The investigators cross-referenced the visits to text messages between the two that were graphic and sexual in nature.
The Multnomah County District Attorney's Office redacted or blacked out the messages in the report released under Oregon's records law.
Sometime between April and May of this year, things started to go sour when the woman learned about Berge's other girlfriend.
Documents show that in May, after making her anonymous call to police, she was apparently scared of how Berge might react and sought an insurance policy. She contacted a company to download his texts from her cell phone, calling her need for the messages "quite possibly a matter of life and death."
But when contacted by a detective in May, she did not respond, according to the police report.
In undated text messages, she told Berge the police had tracked her down. "I would consider not going along with the investigation if you made reparations," she wrote, in the records reviewed by the Tribune. 'No witness, no investigation."
"You broke a lot of laws against me," she added. "Omg miss you more than you know."
"Should I move forward with this?" she also texted. "Like I said, you choked me."
In July 2017, she emailed Berge saying she told the investigator the two were just friends, adding that her aim was to "remind" him of how they met. She said she'd shared their text messages with friends in case anything happened to her. She said that "you scared me and I thought you might hurt me ... I'm sorry for being so angry lately."
On Sept. 5, after meeting with police, she felt they'd accused her of lying, and turned over her text messages with Berge. She also sent a subsequent email to Berge and city officials demanding that the detectives who'd contacted her about her compaint stop "harassing" her. She called Berge a "racist," and a "predator," while indicating she'd go public if she didn't get the job. "I cannot be unraped and I cannot be unabused," she wrote.
In December, alerted by prosecutors that Berge was going to be charged, she seemed surprised to hear the investigation had proceeded although she never filed a formal complaint.
"Why is Berge (being) charged?" she wrote, asking if there were other crimes or complainants involved. "In what way are you trying to involve me in this case?"