Ex-EPD Officer Accepts Plea Agreement in Misconduct Case
On Thursday, June 2, former Eugene Police Officer Christopher Drumm pled guilty to criminal charges of official misconduct in the first degree. Lane County Circuit Court Judge Charles M. Zennaché accepted Drumm’s plea and sentenced him to thirty days in jail and probation.
Drumm’s misconduct was initially reported to EPD by local nurse, sex worker, and activist Jay St. James as reported in Vice News.
St. James told EPD that Drumm had victimized, stalked, and raped her four days after she called to request CAHOOTS to help de-escalate a domestic dispute. However, CAHOOTS were never sent and four male officers responded instead.
After EPD arrived, St. James said the cops ignored her allegations of domestic violence, verbally harassed her, and then reported her to Child Protective Services.
Over the course of the next few days while on duty, Drumm targeted St. James in her home before eventually raping her on May 24, 2020 — twice. After the initial rape, Drumm returned, again, two hours later, in full uniform with his gun unlatched from his holster, and asked her for a blowjob.
According to Deputy District Attorney Robert Lane, Drumm has thirty days to appeal the decision and sentencing. St. James’s lawyer, Adam Keil of Koufrey and McDougal, says that it is unlikely that Drumm will seek out an appeal.
Though the sentencing is minimal, St. James is satisfied with the outcome and hopes that this decision will have a greater impact upon the police. “I hope they know that they will be held accountable and that they can’t get away with this abuse anymore” said St. James.
“As a Black woman and a sex worker, I feel like this decision is a bit historical,” said St. James. Justice for Black women, especially sex workers, is rare in the context of history in this country.
“More often, women like me are never taken seriously,” said St. James. Instead, she said that these women are instantly “labeled angry or unstable and discredited,” resulting in abusers getting away with their crimes.
“It wasn’t until the 1940’s that a case was even heard regarding the rape of a Black woman in this country,” she added.
The unprecedented case involved the rape of a Black woman walking home from church.
“Recy Taylor was walking home from a church meeting in Abbeville, Alabama with two other churchgoers when she was terrorized by seven white men in a green Chevrolet truck, snatched by them, taken to a secluded area and assaulted and raped, being told to “‘act like you do, with your husband or I’ll cut your damn throat.’”
Those men were later identified and investigated. But during the course of the investigation, Taylor herself became the focus of the dispute. Taylor was labeled a “prostitute,” a “willing participant” and “nothing but a whore” by a few of the men who raped her as well as the sheriff involved in the case.
Despite the known information that one of the attackers had confessed to the rape, according to A History of Racial Justice, “on February 14, 1945, an all-white, all-male grand jury failed to return an indictment against any of the men accused of raping Mrs. Taylor. The men were never prosecuted.”
Though St. James received some justice with Drumm’s resulting plea and sentencing, she claims that there were efforts taken by EPD and the district attorney to “discredit her” and label her “unstable and hard to work with.”
The day after the Vice News article was published, both EPD and the district attorney issued statements regarding both Drumm and St. James. Each news release was published with St. James’ “government name” although Vice News stated that they refrained from using “her legal name to help protect her family’s privacy.”
Nonetheless, St. James said, “I know it’s just attempts to further out me but honestly when most people hear the full story, they aren’t in anyway focused on me being a sex worker or being politically vocal. Something can’t shame me if I’m not ashamed of it.”
On May 28, 2020, St. James finally gathered the courage to report the rape and had a friend drop her off at the police station. She said “I reported Drumm’s behavior to EPD, it wasn’t just a simple conversation.”
However, several weeks later on July 15, St. James was arrested for protesting in front of EPD’s building. She was there with a small group of protesters seeking accountability, not knowing whether or not Drumm was still on the force.
As a local activist, St. James was seeking justice, not just for herself, but for the officer involved shootings and deaths of Eliborio Rodriques Jr. and Charles Landeros. According to observers, the police responded to the small crowd of roughly ten protesters with force.
One source quoted in Vice News said that the police sent 20-30 officers in full riot gear out to handle the situation. St. James was tackled to the ground before being sat on by three officers and hogtied. She spent a night in jail and wasn’t processed until the next day.
St. James was booked on July 16, 2020, charged with felony riot, interfering with a peace officer, criminal mischief in the second degree, and resisting arrest.
In the initial press release dated April 30, 2021 Chief Chris Skinner said that St. James’ account and the Vice News article was inaccurate and lacked valuable insight from the criminal investigation.
“However,” she said, “I knew I may not be taken seriously, but the evidence was just too strong.”
Vice News reported that Drumm was placed on paid leave May 30, 2020 as part of the criminal investigation. He officially resigned from the department on June 10, however, EPD didn’t release that information until April 30, 2021 the day after St. James’ story was published.
Her initial report of rape was turned over to the Salem Police Department for investigation. But yet again, St. James said she was mistreated by law enforcement and the justice system.
St. James said she was “treated with hostility by the investigators and the district attorney” and was “prevented from testifying to the grand jury” in Drumm’s criminal case.
According to the DA’s news release dated April 30, 2021 a case involving Drumm was opened on July 7, 2020 and was turned over to the SPD to investigate. Two weeks later, the case was set to be heard by a grand jury on July 22, 2020. At that time, St. James was subpoenaed to appear and, though she did appear, St. James did not want to testify without her lawyer present.
The news release, according to her, falsely claimed that “she did not want to testify.”
The document goes on to report numerous contacts made between the district attorney, St. James, and her lawyers but failed to indicate which cases they related to as. St. James was, at the time, also dealing with her own criminal cases stemming from the felony riot charge.
Nonetheless, the district attorney stated that since St. James “is represented by lawyers, and that she has previously invoked her right not to testify, it would be unethical for the District Attorney to contact her or compel her to testify regarding this matter.”
St. James was never contacted again to testify in front of the grand jury regarding Drumm’s criminal misconduct. In early May 2022, St. James was told by her lawyers that Drumm had made arrangements to accept a plea agreement.
With her lawyers present, St. James was able to give a victims impact statement as part of the plea hearing. Kiel said that “there were some minor connection issues” with the webinar while St. James was speaking but, in the end, “her statement did make an impact.”
“Christopher Peyton Drumm came into my life during a time of domestic violence and coordinated with every professional resource he touched to isolate and assault me.
He proudly bragged about it. I told him no less than five times over those days that I was not having any type of any sex with him. Because of Drumms choices, I was displaced from my homes, my community, and most painfully my children during a time with my battle with stage four cancer is expected to last three years before morbidity takes over. Christopher Drumm engaged with my children directly in his pursuit of me and has left a mark on them further deteriorating their trust in authority. From what I now know about power dynamics, I pray that his children are protected from him as (a predator and) an influence. I can’t get back what Christopher Drumm took from me but I thank this court for doing everything you can to prevent it from happening again. Thank you.”
St James hopes that Drumm will never be able to work as a law enforcement officer “with a gun and badge” again. She has also filed a civil complaint against the City of Eugene and Drumm for sexual battery. Kiel said that, though Drumm’s plea agreement will have “little to no effect” on that case, the complaint “speaks to larger issues in the department which resulted in Drumm abusing his powers” in a very short time frame. Thus, St. James included a second civil complaint against the city for negligence.
The complaint states that the department failed “to adequately train” and “supervise” Drumm. Especially, in regards to “sexual contact with potential victims or suspects encountered during the course of an investigation, including the impossibility of obtaining consent to sex from an individual actively reliant upon the officer for protection, impartial investigation, and police services.”
Drumm was initially hired by EPD in June 2017 and was part of 374th Oregon Department of Safety and Training’s Basic Police Class that graduated in February 2018. He was only employed with EPD for nearly three years before he abused his power, engaged in official misconduct, and raped St. James. Along with his resignation, his certification through DPSST is currently under review for criminal disposition.
St. James says that Drumm “fell into the culture of EPD” and, while on the job, he quickly learned the way to “target his victim.” St. James said that “whether or not there are more victims of his abuse is at this time unknown.”
Nonetheless, EPD does have an ugly history, similar to other departments both locally and across the nation, of police officers abusing the badge.
According to an in-depth investigation published by USA Today titled “Dead rats, death threats, destroyed careers. How law enforcement punishes its whistleblowers,” there are patterns of behavior that allow cops to continue to misbehave and get away with it.
These issues, present at every level of law enforcement, are found in individual officers, supervisors, managers, as well as in the justice system itself.
Too often, officers who break the law are never reported or held accountable, protected as part of the “thin blue line” by fellow officers and the police unions.
According to St. James, after Drumm resigned he began working for the Eugene Police Employees Union which caused her a great deal of concern. She said she “feared that Drumm would never be held accountable.”
Former Internal Investigator for EPD—Scott McKee—who investigated Magaña and Lara—said the union likely helped Drumm receive a lesser punishment and that Drumm’s sentencing was a “slap on the wrist.” Though he believes that DPSST will revoke his certification, McKee said that may not prevent him from being a police officer again in the future somewhere else.
“Unfortunately though, sometimes unions will try to mitigate his situation in order to create a favorable future for him. Sometimes that could mean supporting or encouraging him to hold out for a plea deal which minimizes or eliminates the sexual element from the charge. In such circumstances, he could attempt to gain employment in another state as a law enforcement officer and then it’s up to the agency employing him to conduct a background check and identify the true nature of the offense and whether or not it is a factor that would eliminate him from consideration.”
McKee further explained that “not all agencies comply with the sanctions and direction provided by DPSST regarding disclosure of individual officer misconduct.” He said that some agencies can avoid disclosure as part of a separation package and that contrary to what he thought, DPSST doesn’t perform their own investigation, rather they refer complaints back to the accused individuals’ department.
“This process is just fine when you have a police agency with genuine interest in transparency,” McKee said. “However, if the problem in any given agency resides, even in part at the top of the organization, then you can see how well intended DPSST policy and practice can miss the mark where the rubber meets the road as far as oversight and consequence.”
McKee also agrees that there are patterns of behavior that need to change within policing and agency hiring practices. “It is sort of my soapbox and contention that if law enforcement is going to survive a test of time and the ‘Defund the Police’ Movement, policing is going to have to completely convert and rewrite the script for recruiting.”
Chief Skinner has had a difficult time recruiting to fill his department’s needs and often explains that he and other agencies are dealing with the same pool of applicants. McKee said that Skinner is correct about that but “unfortunately not all of the candidates in that pool have demonstrated an aptitude for swimming, and some in the pool carry baggage that is prior known misconduct.”
McKee also believes that agencies need to begin to recruit more women onto the force.
“I truly believe that women are going to hold a stronger position in future law enforcement. I believe that the male dominated profession of policing is going to have to integrate not only women but also broaden their target audience to attract a different type of person to policing.”
He said that, most often, cops who commit misconduct do so for three reasons: “sex, drugs, and money.”
“No matter how stringent and extensive your recruiting and background process is for police candidates, there is no way of knowing how any individual will respond when they are given power and authority over people. Power and authority is a huge responsibility and it very easily can go to an individual’s head and become misused. Anecdotally, I have never been involved in a police investigation of alleged misconduct wherein a female officer has been accused of utilizing her police position to gain advantage over another person. Has it happened in American law enforcement; certainly, but my point is, women don’t generally behave in the same manner when it comes to exercising their authority over others as police officers.”
Double Sided Media reached out to EPD to see if Chief Skinner had a prepared statement about Drumm’s guilty plea and whether or not the department had changed its hiring practices with increased efforts on hiring more women. In response, Melinda McLaughlin, the department’s public information officer, stated that they were not aware of the current proceedings, directed us back to the initial press release, and refrained from answering any other questions.
DSM has also requested records from Lane County relating to St. James’ felony charges, along with any information that may relate to her civil case against Drumm and the City of Eugene. The district attorney said they will make the related records from Drumm’s criminal case available after the thirty-day window he has to appeal has expired.
For now, St. James is relieved with the outcome and is patiently waiting for her day in court. Her charges stemming from her arrest on June 15, 2020 have since been dropped and she has moved away from Oregon with plans to return only one time. “I wanna see Charlie’s mural restored from the defacement.”