Correction: A previous version of this story stated that Kristofor O’Rourke was fired from Tompkins County Sheriff’s Office for an incident that happened while on-duty in Cortland County. The incident actually took place in Tompkins County, but the complainant incorrectly thought O’Rourke was a Cortland County officer, leading to the confusion.

TOMPKINS COUNTY, N.Y.—A former deputy in the Tompkins County Sheriff’s Office has been arrested and charged with a felony sex offense stemming from an investigation at his previous job with the Village of Geneseo Police Department that had previously not been revealed to the public.

Kristofor O’Rourke, 29 years old, was arrested Monday, Nov. 28, announced by Livingston County District Attorney Gregory McCaffery. He was charged with third-degree criminal sex act and official misconduct. O’Rourke was terminated by the Tompkins County Sheriff’s Office on Nov. 21, 2022 in an unrelated action detailed below.

“On July 1, 2022 into the morning of July 2, 2022, O’Rourke was a uniformed police officer working for the Village of Geneseo Police Department,” McCaffery said during a press conference Monday. O’Rourke had been hired by the Tompkins County Sheriff’s Office in August. “He was involved in a traffic stop here in the Village of Geneseo and arrested a female for aggravated driving while intoxicated. In the weeks following the arrest, the female came forward with allegations of improper sexual conduct by Officer O’Rourke that evening after a courtesy transport. […] The charges against him allege that he engaged in oral sexual conduct without the consent of this female while he was on duty and in uniform after she was arrested for driving while intoxicated. The performance of the oral sex was under the threat of her being taken back to jail.”

Third-degree criminal sex act is a class E felony and carries a sentence range of 1-4 years incarceration. Official misconduct is considered a misdemeanor.

While an investigation was underway into the allegations against O’Rourke in Livingston County, Tompkins County police said they weren’t notified until after they had completed their own investigation into the officer for a separate issue.

On Nov. 9, O’Rourke had been accused of making an “inappropriate verbal communication of a sexual nature […] to a member of the public while he was on-duty” in an incident that took place in Tompkins County O’Rourke was placed on administrative leave at that time, according to Tompkins County Sheriff Derek Osborne, and that complaint was sustained after an investigation by Tompkins County Undersheriff Jennifer Olin. As a result of that, O’Rourke was terminated with cause on Nov. 21, 2022, Osborne said, though he was not charged criminally.

Osborne added that the incident in Tompkins County did not reach “nearly the extent” of the crimes O’Rourke is alleged to have committed in Geneseo, and that there was no physical contact between him and the complainant in the verbal comment case.

The criminal sex act investigation by the New York State Police into O’Rourke was unbeknownst to Tompkins County officials until Nov. 22, 2022, the day after he was terminated, Osborne said. O’Rourke had been with the Tompkins County Sheriff’s Office since being hired as a lateral transfer from the Geneseo Police Department in August 2022.

Osborne said he wasn’t sure why he hadn’t been notified, either by state police or the Geneseo Police Department, of the investigation into the criminal sex act allegations when it began—which he believes was shortly after O’Rourke’s hiring.

“I got the call the day after I fired him,” Osborne said. “I told [the State Police] what we had, and they said they’ve been investigating him since August, the incident that happened in Geneseo. […] As I understand it, I’m sure that they were concerned about safeguarding the investigation too. But that’s just speculation on my part.”

Osborne posited that he would tell another police department if someone who worked for them currently was under investigation for a crime committed previously as a Tompkins County Sheriff’s Deputy. No disciplinary or performance concerns were reported during the background investigation into O’Rourke’s hiring, Osborne said—which he said consists of a polygraph test, a psychological test, a psychiatric interview, records checks, an investigative interview and associate interviews, all of which didn’t turn up anything untoward about O’Rourke.

Asked if he thinks this is an indictment of the hiring process or a sign that a different approach is necessary, Osborne did not immediately respond. O’Rourke was supervised by a Field Training Officer from Aug. 8, 2022 until Sept. 24, 2022, but was alone on patrol between Sept. 25 and Nov. 8, 2022.

“I would like to apologize to the residents of Tompkins County, that despite our best efforts at conducting thorough background investigations of applicants, for having one slip through the cracks and potentially put people in our community at risk,” Osborne said in his announcement of the arrest.

He added that while his office is working with the Tompkins County District Attorney’s office, it is too early to tell if any cases are impacted by O’Rourke’s arrest or prior conduct. The Tompkins County Sheriff’s Office is also asking anyone who may have had “improper interaction” with O’Rourke to come forward to the New York State Police. There have been no further complaints against O’Rourke that have surfaced in the week since he was fired, Osborne said.

“As Sheriff, I would ask the Governor and Attorney General to provide safeguards to better protect prior employers from potential liability from disclosing information of a concerning nature to agencies conducting background investigations on those applying for positions in the public safety field,” Osborne said.

A call to the New York State Police for more information about when the crime was reported and why the Tompkins County Sheriff’s Office wasn’t notified has not yet been returned.

Matt Butler

Matt Butler is the Managing Editor at the Ithaca Voice. He can be reached by email at mbutler@ithacavoice.com