For years, 45-year-old Fort Wayne police officer Mark Rogers walked into Allen Superior Court rooms to present evidence in criminal cases.
But on Friday morning, the 19-year department veteran was all alone, with the exception of his attorney, to face the scrutiny that comes with charges filed against those sworn to protect.
Rogers, now on unpaid administrative leave from his job, is accused of sexual misconduct while on duty and lying in his reports to cover it up.
Free on bond, he sat alone in the front row of the courtroom gallery until his initial hearing on those charges began.
Head down, even as he approached the microphone with his attorney, the only visible trace of his life in law enforcement was the black tactical boots on his feet under civilian clothes.
It’s been somewhat of a rarity for a city police officer to find himself in Rogers’ position.
Since Rusty York became police chief in 2000, 11 of the department’s more than 400 officers have been arrested for various crimes, according to The Journal Gazette archives.
Most of those arrests involved misdemeanor charges. Some officers were accused of drunken driving; others of battering their wives or girlfriends.
Several were convicted of crimes, while others were either acquitted or saw the charges against them dropped.
Rogers is the first city police officer charged with a felony since 2002, when Tobin V. Ray was charged with possession of stolen property after investigators found a stolen dump truck, backhoe and riding mower at the 12-year veteran’s home.
Ray was eventually convicted.
It’s extremely unusual when an arrest takes place like this, York said.
We spend a lot of our time building trust with the public and opening up channels to get information, York continued. It’s a setback, to a degree, when an officer is arrested.
What brought Rogers to the courtroom Friday was an encounter he had with a woman this month.
He had taken the woman into custody for driving while intoxicated, took her to a hospital to have her blood drawn and then left the hospital with her.
Ultimately, the two had sex on a park bench, according to court documents.
The woman came forward more than a week later saying Rogers had sexually assaulted her.
She also said she only cooperated with him because she feared for her physical safety and because she knew he was a police officer.
Rogers is accused of writing a police report stating that he left the woman at the hospital the night he took her into custody, though footage from a security camera shows otherwise, according to court documents.
Allen County prosecutors this week formally charged him with felony counts of sexual misconduct and official misconduct as well as a misdemeanor count of false informing.
Study in progress
There is no data showing how often police officers are arrested nationwide, or how often sex crime charges are brought against them.
But an assistant professor at Bowling Green State University is trying to change that.
Philip Stinson, a former police officer himself and a former attorney, is in the process of putting together a massive study looking at the arrest rates of city, county and state police officers.
Stinson said data gleaned so far have shown surprising results, some of which correlate to Rogers’ own case.
Prior research would suggest young cops early in their career are the more likely to be arrested, that they act up in their first three or five years, Stinson said. What we see is completely different. We see a spike at the 18- or 20-year mark.
Stinson’s preliminary research shows that roughly 700 to 1,000 police officers are arrested a year, facing between 900 and 1,100 various charges.
Between 2005 and 2008, there have been 555 officers arrested on sex-related criminal charges, according to Stinson’s research.
In many of those cases, Stinson said, police officers sought out women – typically in their mid-20s or so – driving at night.
It’d be the nurse getting off late, or the girl leaving the bar, Stinson said.
No information has been released about the woman who levied claims against Rogers.
Stinson also said his research shows that roughly 28 percent of officers charged with a sex-related crime were also at some point named in civil rights lawsuits filed in federal court.
In 2004, a man sued Rogers and a slew of other officers and detectives within the department claiming he was beaten and kicked by the group.
The lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court, was eventually dismissed.
Also found in U.S. District Court were bankruptcy records showing that Rogers and his wife had once accrued nearly $100,000 in credit-card debt and $40,000 in debt tied to Florida timeshares.
The Allen County Sheriff’s Department began an investigation into Rogers because the woman came to them about the incident, according to court documents.
When sheriff’s detectives showed up at Rogers’ door Monday of this week to talk with him, he immediately asked for an attorney.
He also profusely apologized to his colleagues and, according to court documents, said:
I threw 19 years away for a (expletive) woman.
During Friday’s brief initial hearing, an Allen Superior Court judge entered preliminary pleas of not guilty on his behalf for all the charges against him, which is part of procedure.
Rogers said little, answering basic questions about who he is with one-word answers.
He is scheduled to appear in court in November for a pretrial hearing. Until then, he will remain free on bond.
When the hearing was over, Rogers and his lawyer, David Zent, exited quickly, out to the broad hallway to face a gaggle of TV cameras and reporters assembled by the stairs and the elevator.
There was no way around them.