Evansville Courier & Press (IN) - October 18, 2009
Author/Byline: GAVIN LESNICK, STAFF WRITER Section: Metro Page: A1 Correction: Pub. 10/20/09 - A report on Page A1 of Sunday's Courier & Press contained an error. The Evansville Police Department agreed to provide a copy of former officer Martin Montgomery's department photo.
Martin Montgomery had the makings of a promising career on the Evansville Police Department.
Still fairly new to the force and assigned to the West Sector night shift, Montgomery, a Gibson County native, already had made a name for himself among his peers and supervisors.
In 2007, a little more than a year after being sworn in alongside 10 other new hires, Montgomery helped save a man who tried to hang himself from a tree. Montgomery hoisted him while a police sergeant untied the noose - an act that would earn both officers merit awards.
And in October 2008, Montgomery's good police work again caught the eye of his supervisors: He was named Officer of the Month for locating and then chasing a car driven by suspects in a home invasion robbery.
But only weeks after those arrests were made, Montgomery is alleged to have transformed from cop to criminal, using his power and position to assault two women he encountered while patrolling.
fired. Montgomery was arrested on one charge July 29 and released on a $1,500 cash bond that night. He resigned from the department five days later, shortly before the Merit Commission was to consider Hill's recommendation of termination.
In joining the force, Montgomery was subject to an exhaustive background test and application process that is in part designed to weed out people with criminal tendencies.
Doug Schneider, a sergeant in the personnel division, said it's an extensive process for everyone who tries to join the force.
Applicants are immediately dismissed if they have felonies or domestic violence convictions on their records or if they admit to hallucinogenic drug use.
They take a physical agility test and a written exam before a series of interviews, including one in front of the Merit Commission.
The top scorers are added to a list from which the police hires. But not before even more checks.
The applicants first are subjected to a background test, a lengthy interview about personal behaviors and then a polygraph exam to check their answers.
Next, applicants undergo a pair of psychological tests: the Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory (MMPI) and the Law Enforcement Assessment and Development Report, which is geared specifically toward measuring emotional stability on the force.
Applicants also are interviewed by a psychiatrist.
"It's lengthy and very tedious but nonetheless very important," Schneider said.
"There are a lot of checks and balances to make sure we're bringing the right people on board."
So how come Montgomery wasn't detected?
Margaret Ann Keaton, an assistant professor at the University of Indianapolis who specializes in criminal psychology, has an idea.
Keaton said the MMPI, in particular, which is standard on most police departments, is flawed in that its typical rating for a good police officer is similar to that of a psychopath.
Both are sensation-seekers, authoritarian, aggressive and take-charge individuals who have above-average intelligence, she said.
"Most police officers are that in a healthy way. Unfortunately, a psychopath is that in a pathological way. And it's very difficult to tell which is which when you're just looking at MMPI."
To best screen for potential problems, Keaton said, police departments need to speak in-depth with people who know the applicant - and not just those references the applicant provides.
But even then, it's not a foolproof method for preventing people who shouldn't become officers from getting on the force.
The Evansville Police Department does, as part of its process, have background investigators contact people the applicants know or have been around.
"There's absolutely no guarantee," Keaton said.
"But you're going to increase the likelihood you're going to capture them. That's the best you can hope for. People are bilked every day by psychopaths."
After being sworn in, Montgomery, like all officers, went through academy training and was on probation for his initial year, riding with field training officers who evaluated him closely.
But despite that, there were no reported signs of what lurked within a man sworn to serve and protect, said Hill.
"I don't think there was ever an inkling from co-workers and certainly not supervisors of any activity like this. And as I've said ad infinitum, when we did hear this, we took immediate action and would have at any time if we had gotten any kind of a report on him."
Some efforts by the Courier & Press to look further into Montgomery's application and early time on the force were met with resistance.
Citing state law that neither requires nor forbids it from being released, the Police Department declined to make available Montgomery's application, the full contents of his personnel file or even his department photo.
Hill also said he would not allow any officers who worked with or supervised Montgomery to speak for this story.
"The less interviews about him the better, so that we don't taint any pending cases," Hill said, adding that he is not trying to hide anything by keeping the officers from speaking.
"Absolutely not. I'm just trying to make sure that the criminal case goes forward unhampered."
Only one other member of Montgomery's hiring class is no longer on the department. Reached at home recently, Amber Pfeffer declined to comment and said she was "not going to go there" in reference to speaking about her former colleague.
Montgomery has consistently declined to speak with the media about the case.
He did not respond to a letter sent by the Courier & Press and has not answered questions posed to him outside court proceedings. Family members with him also have declined to answer questions.
One relative, though, appears to have offered some insight on the impact of the charges.
A man who identified himself as Montgomery's older brother, Richard Montgomery, said in an e-mail that the family is standing behind him.
"I will tell you that, while it saddens me that my brother made the mistake of sleeping with a woman while on duty, there is absolutely no way he forced her to do anything," the e-mail stated.
"There is no evidence of that, and the last thing anyone wants to see is an innocent person go to jail. Our family will continue to support Martin, and we pray that the truth will come out. My brother is a good man who made a mistake, but that mistake is not as severe as the EPD is stating."
Richard Montgomery did not respond to an e-mail seeking additional information.
A review of Police Department documents filed during Montgomery's time on the force reveals him to have been a seemingly normal third-shift officer.
The Courier & Press obtained all of the probable cause affidavits he wrote between his hiring and resignation date through a Freedom of Information Act request. The documents detail every arrest Montgomery made and include narratives about why and how the suspect in each case broke the law.
They are reflective of the routine crimes which frequently pepper the city's police logs: arrests for driving while intoxicated, public intoxication, disorderly conduct and battery appear often.
The thick file of narratives includes his first arrest in July 2006 to his last earlier this year.
That came June 3 when Montgomery stopped Rachel M. Lomax, 22, who was accused of driving while intoxicated.
Montgomery pulled over her black Mitsubishi at the intersection of Tremont Road and Greenleaf Drive and made the arrest after Lomax failed a series of field sobriety tests.
She said she was "shocked" to learn of the allegations against Montgomery and said there was never any indication of misconduct during her experience. He seemed kind, she recalled, and even called a female officer in to search her.
"Nothing happened," she said. "It wasn't unusual. .. You run across cops that are nice and some that are mean He was nice."
Nicole R. Fuhrman, 16, was another of the people Montgomery encountered just before being suspended. She received a speeding ticket the night of June 4 as she drove in from Jasper, Ind., to Evansville for soccer practice.
Fuhrman started crying because it was her first time being pulled over. She recalled Montgomery being very stern, asking for her license and then returning with a ticket.
"I thought he was very rude," she said. "But that was about it. .. There was nothing out of the ordinary"
The aftermath of Montgomery's alleged crimes have an impact on the city as a whole and the way local residents view the department, police officials acknowledged.
But Assistant Chief Rob Hahn - who called the case a stain on the department - said while the public trust was violated by the cases, people should take comfort in knowing how quickly the agency responded. Montgomery was removed from duty within hours after the initial complaint surfaced.
And since then, police not only investigated that incident but also scoured his background and turned up the victims that made up the two cases for which charges were filed, Hahn noted.
Going forward, he said the department will show residents the department can and should be trusted as police work to overcome lingering negative associations from the Montgomery case.
"We have always been very confident in our abilities to police Evansville and the surrounding area," Hahn said.
"How we'll do this is how we've done things since we've been a Police Department. We'll let our work speak for itself. We'll prove to Evansville the quality of officers as well as the quality of the department we have."
* * *
Two sets of department eyes brought to bear on Montgomery
Because Martin Montgomery was a police officer, the investigation into his alleged misconduct involved two parts of the Evansville Police Department.
A detective who typically handles sex crimes investigated that aspect of the case much as he would any other criminal allegation. Meanwhile, the department's internal affairs unit looked into the various internal rules and regulations Montgomery violated.
The internal procedural charges were the basis for the initial personnel order that Chief Brad Hill issued suspending Montgomery from the force. Among them, Montgomery was accused of neglect of duty, failure to report a domestic violence incident, improper conduct and improper relationship with the public.
Had Montgomery not resigned, the Police Merit Commission would have considered those procedural violations in determining whether to dismiss him.
The department chose to handle the investigation itself because the crimes happened in its jurisdiction, Hill said. In theory, it could have called in an outside agency to conduct it because it involved an officer, but, Hill said, there is no precedent that he knows of for doing so.
"We could potentially do that if we felt some need," Hill said.
"But the Police Department has done over the years an outstanding job, and you can think of cases in the past where we have done a thorough investigation and it's been an unbiased investigation, not trying to protect a police officer who's involved in some kind of criminal activity."
* * *
ABOUT MARTIN MONTGOMERY
Name: Martin "Marty" Ross Montgomery
Education: Graduated from Gibson Southern High School and attended Kentucky Wesleyan University
Badge number: 1305
Hire date: Feb. 27, 2006
Resignation: Aug. 3, 2009
Official Police Department job description: Enforces local, state and federal laws by implementing effective policy for the prevention and investigation of crimes to protect the lives and property of the citizens.
* * *
Martin Montgomery Timeline
Feb. 27, 2006: Martin Montgomery is sworn in alongside 10 other new Evansville Police Department hires.
July 18, 2006: Montgomery makes his first arrest as an officer - a disorderly conduct case against a woman accused of throwing rocks at an apartment building.
May 13, 2007: Montgomery is one of two officers who respond to a man trying to hang himself from a tree on Keck Avenue. Montgomery hoists the man, saving his life and earning a merit award.
Oct. 8, 2008: Montgomery spots a vehicle belonging to suspects in a home invasion robbery, attempts to stop it and then initiates a chase. His attention in finding the suspects earned him an Officer of the Month award for October, though it won't be bestowed until January.
Nov. 18, 2008: Montgomery is alleged to have committed his first assault during his shift. Police say he responded to a run, called off other units and had two women perform a sex act on each other and then with him.
Jan. 14, 2009: Montgomery receives a congratulatory letter from Chief Brad Hill, announcing the October Officer of the Month honor.
March 1, 2009: Montgomery is alleged to have committed his second sexual offense. Police say he responded to a fight, gave one of the participants a ride home and then forced her to perform a sexual act on him.
June 3, 2009: Montgomery makes his last arrest as an officer - a motorist who is driving erratically is arrested on a drunken driving charge.
June 16, 2009: Evansville resident Brittany Pryor reports that Montgomery responded to a domestic violence incident at her North Main Street home, sent her boyfriend away from the scene and then raped her. Police initiate a
criminal investigation. Hill places Montgomery on administrative leave with pay.
June 19, 2009: Hill suspends Montgomery without pay for 21 days - the maximum penalty he can impose - and also recommends that he be fired for neglect of duty, criminal activity and improper conduct.
July 20, 2009: A grand jury considers charges against Montgomery for the June complaint. It votes unanimously not to file any. Police insist the investigation continues as detectives scour Montgomery's past for other possible misconduct.
July 29, 2009: A charge of criminal deviate conduct is filed against Montgomery after police locate and interview the victim in the alleged March 1 incident. Montgomery surrenders and is booked into the Vanderburgh County Jail, where he is bonded out hours later by a relative.
July 30, 2009: Montgomery makes a brief initial court appearance. He says little during it and doesn't answer questions from a Courier & Press reporter beforehand or while exiting the courthouse.
Aug. 3, 2009: Montgomery resigns in person at Evansville Police Department headquarters hours before the Police Merit Commission is scheduled to consider his termination. The commission accepts the resignation. Hill emphasizes after the hearing that the investigation is still ongoing and other charges are possible.
Sept. 1, 2009: A second charge of criminal deviate conduct is added minutes before a progress hearing on the initial case. Police say they located and interviewed the victims in the Nov. 18, 2008, incident, leading to the new filing.
Sept. 14, 2009: Montgomery's attorney files a motion requesting separate trials for the two charges against his client.
* * *
WHAT HAPPENS TO HIS CASES
A search of Vanderburgh County court records reveals numerous open cases involving Martin Montgomery from his time on the force, ranging from people he arrested to those he ticketed.
So, what happens to those cases now that he's off the force and readying for trial?
They are not automatically dismissed, said Vanderburgh County Prosecutor Stan Levco, but Montgomery's involvement is a factor.
Levco said one recent case in which Montgomery was a witness resulted in a hung jury. Levco opted not to retry it, in part because of Montgomery.
"It doesn't preclude us from going ahead," Levco said. "But it is a factor."
He said each case is handled on an individual basis, and most are resolved before going to trial, which would make Montgomery's involvement a moot point.
Levco knew of no cases that were dismissed simply because Montgomery was a witness.