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CINCINNATI (WXIX) - The Hamilton County Prosecutor's Office is investigating a veteran Cincinnati police officer for allegedly shelving rape DNA test results for years, potentially impacting hundreds of cases, according to Prosecutor Joe Deters.
He identified the officer as Christopher Schroder, who joined the police department in January 1999, according to his personnel file.
Schroder, 52, was assigned to the Personal Crimes Unit in CPD's Criminal Investigation Section from July 2007 until he was transferred in July to District 1. His file does not indicate why he was moved or specifically what he was assigned to do at District 1.
The officer "is accused of doing nothing. OK. He literally had active cases where he wasn't doing his job," Deters told FOX19 NOW.
"We're reviewing, literally, over a decade of cases right now, to see if he affected any of them. And, you know, I don't know that anybody appreciates the significance of what this means," the prosecutor said. "And I don't know how far back this goes. But CPD is taking it incredibly seriously and we're going to get to the bottom of it."
So there potentially could be rapists out there that have never even been contacted and rape victims whose rapists are still free?
"Yes," Deters responded. "And that's what CPD is actively attempting to resolve right now."
Cincinnati police said in a statement Wednesday night the issue came to light when police conducted an audit after a change in leadership at CIS.
"As soon as the department uncovered this distressing information, swift action was taken. We are actively working through all the cases that were assigned to Officer Schroder and our priority is bringing justice to the victims he impacted by failing to do his job as an investigator with the Cincinnati Police Department," the statement reads.
"A comprehensive review of all the cases assigned to Officer Schroder since being assigned to the Personal Crimes Squad has been conducted. Any case that requires action has been prioritized and reassigned. Schroder's police powers were suspended in August of 2021 and he is currently suspended with pay pending the outcome of this investigation.
"As this investigation concludes, further facts and details will be available."
Hamilton County Coroner Lakshmi Sammarco said, "I can't imagine how distressed the victims and families are right now. Justice was not provided to them."
Sammarco says Schroder's name appears in 96 entries in the coroner's office database. There were four CODIS hits results that were given to the officer, the coroner says.
She did not specify how many of those cases are unsolved.
CODIS stands for Combined DNA Index System. It links unknown DNA left during a crime to offenders who are legally required to provide samples for the database, according to the FBI.
"This egregious incident involving Officer Christopher Schroder tarnishes the badge but is not reflective of the men and women we employ on this department," Police Chief Eliot Isaac said.
"We believe his actions are so egregious that we are seeking criminal prosecution. We as a department vow to never let something like this happen again."
Officer Schroder's attorney, Mike Allen, said his client is on desk duty and was moved to that role after these accusations came to light.
Allen said the officer is a good cop who is "extremely remorseful" and had a stellar record until this happened.
Officer Schroder "was having some problems, family problems at the time. A family member, close family member died. And he got into a situation where he let some things go," Allen said. "I'm not offering that nor is he as an excuse, or justification, but as an explanation."
Allen tells FOX19 NOW this only involves three cases and a plea deal already has been reached with prosecutors, "This is not the crime of the century."
As part of the plea deal, Officer Schroder will resign from the police department.
"He is going to plead guilty to a misdemeanor of the second degree dereliction of duty. I've got the paperwork. We've already talked to the judge. I believe it will take place sometime next week," Allen said.
He also said, "It's going to go through because a plea deal is a contract, and I'm not going to tolerate the contract being reneged on. It's a misdemeanor of the second degree, 90 days is the maximum. I think $750 in cost."
Allen is a legal analyst for FOX19 NOW, but not in this case.
FOX19 obtained an unsigned copy of the plea deal on the misdemeanor count of dereliction of duty.
Allen says he worked on the deal with Hamilton County Assistant Prosecutor Bill Anderson.
In a cover letter to Allen, Anderson wrote that he will request the assignment of a judge and have the plea deal signed by Deters upon Anderson's receipt of a copy of the deal that is signed by Allen and Schroder.
Anderson wrote that he would then file the deal with the Hamilton County Clerk of Courts and set up a court date for the plea to be entered.
On Wednesday night, Allen told us Anderson has the signed deal in his possession and that Judge Jennifer Branch has been assigned.
We reached out to Anderson for confirmation.
Allen describes the deal as a binding "contract" and said Anderson's receipt of the signed deal constitutes the execution of the "contract."
If the prosecutor's office does not follow through on the terms of the deal, Allen said he will interpret that as a breach of contract and pursue legal action.
Deters contended Wednesday afternoon, however, that details of a "potential deal" were still being worked out. He said one of the things that's "very important" to him is ensuring Schroder is "never a police officer" again.
"That aside, I don't think people realize the scope of what this means in terms of our cases. And if you remember, I don't know if you remember this, but back in the early 2000s, the guy that ran the hair comparison lab for the FBI was found to have falsified stuff. I mean, you have to go to every case.
"We're reviewing, literally, over a decade of cases right now to see if he affected any of them."
Deters said it could impact hundreds of cases and they may have to review up to 1,000 to be sure.
Allen disputes that saying, "We're talking about three cases. Three. And that's not to diminish it. I mean, it's important, but it's not hundreds. It's not 1000s. That's ridiculous."
Allen said, "One case is one case too many. And my client, unfortunately, is going to pay the price for that."
This will put Officer Schroder on Hamilton County's " Brady List." A more than 50-year-old Supreme Court ruling requires prosecutors to seek and disclose evidence to defense attorneys and the accused that is material to his or her guilt or punishment.
This includes evidence about their untruthfulness; certain prior criminal convictions and evidence of bias; excessive use of force.
Deters said he suspects some cases may have a statute of limitations problem if they need to go back and retry cases involving Officer Schroder.
He said he doesn't know how far back this goes "but CPD is taking it incredibly serious too and we all are, we're going to get to the bottom of it."
Deters said he's sorry this happened.
"But in every profession, there's people that shouldn't be in that profession, whether it's news anchors, or prosecutors or police officers or teacher or truck drivers. They're just people that shouldn't do that job. This guy's one of them. Unfortunately, the damage he has caused may be irreparable to some people, and for that, I feel horrible about it."
Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost tells FOX19 NOW Deters, "is on top of this and he's more than capable of handling it. I share his revulsion at this betrayal of duty and trust. My office is prepared to assist local authorities in any way necessary to ensure that justice is done."
Deters put out a news release Wednesday afternoon after FOX19 NOW broke this story.
"My office is aware of the investigation into Cincinnati Police Personal Crimes Unit Officer Christopher Schroder, for dereliction of duty relating to sexual assault investigations. These allegations are incredibly disturbing.
"We are working closely with our partners in the Cincinnati Police Department to determine the extent to which these allegations have affected investigations. Our highest priorities are our victims of crime. We are seeking to rectify any issues stemming from this behavior and deliver justice, and we will continue to work with the Cincinnati Police Department to ensure that takes place.
"I can't fathom what would cause a police officer to do this. But, we will do everything in our power to make sure he is never again a police officer."
Cincinnati Mayor John Cranley issued the following statement: "Officer Schroder's actions are a disgusting betrayal of public trust and the trust of the victims he had a duty to help. The proactive CPD audit findings are deeply troubling. His dereliction should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law."
Sgt. Dan Hills, president of the union that represents Cincinnati police, said in a statement: "Cincinnati police officers work tirelessly to protect the public and ensure justice for victims of terrible crimes. The Fraternal Order of Police protects the rights of its members when they're accused of misconduct. All our police officers count on each other to do their jobs, to keep everyone safe. Any officer found to have purposefully ignored his duties and put innocent people at risk dishonors his oath and his badge."
Before Officer Schroder joined CPD, he worked as a patrolman/police officer at three police departments in southeastern Indiana: Greendale, Aurora and West Harrison, his personnel file shows. He has been a law enforcement officer overall since 1995.
He graduated from Lawrenceburg High School in 1988 and attended Eastern Kentucky University from 1989 to 1993. His major in college was police administration, his personnel file shows.
He attended the Indiana Law Enforcement Academy and was a member of CPD's 87th recruit class in 1999.
His job reviews at CPD are mostly positive, but one supervisor did note in a review that Officer Schroder received an "ESL," or verbal counseling, in 2016, "for neglecting to pick up rape kits in a timely manner. I feel Officer Schroder should attend advanced training on the topic of sexual assault, physical abuse and advanced missing persons investigations. I recommend Officer Schroder study for Police Sergeant. Officer Schroder is an asset to the Personal Crimes Unit and the Cincinnati Police Department."
Several rape kits were located at Children's Hospital, "which had been there for several months, four of these kits belonged to cases assigned to Schroder," according to his personnel file.
The file shows this was a "Violation of Rules and Regulations Section 1.01A. A violation which does not entail a risk of nor leads to physical injury to another or financial loss to the city."
It also states:
"University Hospital and Children's Hospital have locked cabinets to secure physical evidence taken from the victim by the examining physician. The physician will identify and place this evidence in paper bags for deposit into the cabinet. The rape evidence kit includes the rape exam report, clothing, pubic combings, fingernail scrapings, blood samples, etc.
"Only (Personal Crimes Section) investigators will pick up and process evidence from University Hospital and Children's Hospital."
In Officer Schroder's most recent two reviews, from January of this year and January 2020, his supervisor wrote: "He requires little to no supervision."
His supervisor gave him ratings in January of this year of exceeds standards for "Complies with Policies and Procedures," "Customer Service," "Teamwork" and "Grooming and Dress," a copy of his review shows.
He received ratings of meets standards for "Attendance," "Community Partnerships," "Decision-Making," "Problem Solving" "Work Product" and "Written Communication Skills."
"Officer Schroder has consistently done an outstanding job as it relates to his investigative skills here at Personal Crimes," Sgt. Jeni Jones wrote in his Jan. 10 review.
"He is dependable and is always available when it comes to assisting other investigators in the unit. Officer Schroder is one of the more senior investigators in Personal Crimes and because of that he is very knowledgeable about past causes that may involve similar circumstances, victims, or suspects that are being investigated presently.
"He interacts well with victims in his case, calling them back in a timely manner and goes above and beyond for them. Officer Schroder is very detailed when he is investigating and closing his reports. He requires little to no supervision. Officer Schroder is always willing to help his co-workers with their investigation without hesitation. He is an asset to the Personal Crimes Unit."
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