City News, PUBLIC SAFETY, WATCHDOG

Fired Salem police sergeant accused of misconduct gives up state certification

A former Salem police sergeant fired last December after state officials found he took advantage of a domestic violence victim to develop sexual relations has voluntarily surrendered his Oregon police certification.

Jeffrey Keniston gave up his certification on June 19, eight months after he challenged plans by the state Department of Public Safety Standards and Training to strip his police certification. The state agency certifies officers and investigates complaints of misconduct.

Keniston was fired in late 2022 from his Salem post. The Aumsville Police Department hired him five months later. He resigned from that job in October 2023.

Keniston could not be reached by phone on Wednesday. His attorney, Krista Shipsey, did not respond to a written question about why Keniston gave up his certification after he originally fought to keep it.

The state has permanently revoked Keniston’s certifications. “DPSST’s authority does not extend outside the state and it cannot bar those whose credentials have been revoked from seeking or obtaining certification in other states,” according to agency spokesman Sam Tenney.

Keniston’s surrender of his certification was first reported by Discrepancy Report, an online news site.

DPSST proposed revoking Keniston’s certification in August 2023.

The state certification agency concluded in a report at the time that Keniston had “gained an advantage by using his position as a domestic violence officer and department issued equipment and resources to contact a domestic violence victim he was assigned to follow up with for personal gain, which included sexual contact,” according to the proposed order.

The state found that Keniston “used his position for personal gain and engaged in a sexual relationship with a victim he was sworn to protect, reflecting an extreme violation of trust, adversely reflecting on the public safety.” 

That violated the state’s Criminal Justice Code of Ethics “and compromised the public’s trust in the public safety profession,” the state report said.

The Salem Police Department said in a September 2023 statement that Keniston’s conduct with the victim led to his firing.

The accusations against Keniston date back to an April 2022 complaint to the Salem Police Department, which triggered an internal investigation. The Salem agency put Keniston on paid leave in September 2022.

Salem police fired Keniston on Dec. 8, 2022, prompting DPSST to open its own review of the officer.

Aumsville police hired Keniston in May 2023, according to records of the state certification agency.

Keniston’s time in Aumsville was clouded by secrecy. 

Aumsville authorities have declined to explain why they hired Keniston after he was fired from Salem for misconduct. City officials were aware of his firing from Salem and the pending state misconduct investigation.

DPSST proposed revoking Keniston’s certification in August 2023, and he resigned from Aumsville police around five weeks later.

RELATED COVERAGE:

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Aumsville hired police sergeant after learning Salem fired him for misconduct

Police officer said to have preyed on domestic violence victim in Salem faces loss of license

Contact reporter Ardeshir Tabrizian: [email protected] or 503-929-3053.

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Ardeshir Tabrizian has covered criminal justice and housing for Salem Reporter since September 2021. As an Oregon native, his award-winning watchdog journalism has traversed the state. He has done reporting for The Oregonian, Eugene Weekly and Malheur Enterprise.