Of­fi­cer fired over sex with high school stu­dent, 18

Chattanooga Times Free Press - - REGION - BY ROSANA HUGHES STAFF WRITER

An East Ridge po­lice of­fi­cer was re­cently fired for hav­ing a sex­ual re­la­tion­ship with an 18-year-old high school stu­dent, de­spite an in­ter­nal af­fairs in­ves­ti­ga­tion that de­ter­mined he had not vi­o­lated any depart­ment poli­cies or crim­i­nal laws.

Act­ing City Man­ager Kenny Custer fired of­fi­cer Adam Rose on Nov. 21, say­ing Rose’s con­duct was “con­trary to the com­mu­nity stan­dards of hon­esty, jus­tice and/ or good moral val­ues,” ac­cord­ing to his no­tice of ter­mi­na­tion.

On Oct. 25, East Ridge High School Prin­ci­pal Tammy Hel­ton con­tacted the po­lice depart­ment af­ter a teacher learned about a stu­dent hav­ing a re­la­tion­ship with a po­lice of­fi­cer, ac­cord­ing to in­ter­nal af­fairs records. The next day Rose, 29, was placed on ad­min­is­tra­tive leave with pay and an in­ter­nal af­fairs in­ves­ti­ga­tion be­gan.

Rose joined the depart­ment since Au­gust 2016. Dur­ing the in­ves­ti­ga­tion he asked to have an at­tor­ney

present dur­ing ev­ery in­ter­view, cit­ing con­cerns about pre­vi­ous in­stances in which the depart­ment treated him un­fairly. Ear­lier this year, the In­ter­na­tional Brother­hood of Po­lice Of­fi­cers got in­volved when Rose was kicked off the SWAT team for al­legedly bring­ing up con­cerns about out­dated equip­ment against Po­lice Chief J.R. Reed’s or­ders.

In­ves­ti­ga­tors wanted an­swers to two ques­tions: whether the stu­dent was a mi­nor when the re­la­tion­ship be­gan and if Rose vi­o­lated any depart­ment poli­cies.

In the ter­mi­na­tion let­ter, Custer al­leges the stu­dent was un­der 18, cit­ing her “in a re­la­tion­ship” sta­tus on Face­book from be­fore her 18th birth­day. But she told the IA in­ves­ti­ga­tor she was dat­ing a boy then, which she said was fur­ther proof she was not then in­volved with Rose.

The in­ves­ti­ga­tion ul­ti­mately found Rose and the stu­dent met when she was 17 and they worked to­gether at a lo­cal gro­cery store, but the re­la­tion­ship did not start un­til two months af­ter her 18th birth­day.

Reed also wanted to know whether the stu­dent’s mother knew about or ap­proved of the re­la­tion­ship. The IA in­ves­ti­ga­tor could not reach the mother, but the woman told Hel­ton she had no prob­lem with the re­la­tion­ship, the file shows.

The in­ves­ti­ga­tion re­sulted in no find­ings of pol­icy vi­o­la­tions and or crim­i­nal of­fenses, since the stu­dent was an adult. In a Nov. 19 let­ter to Custer, Reed rec­om­mended no ac­tion be taken.

Ul­ti­mately, Custer based the fir­ing on moral turpi­tude, or “con­duct that shocks the pub­lic con­science,” which is grounds for dis­missal in East Ridge’s per­son­nel pol­icy.

“I have iden­ti­fied a pat­tern of trou­bling be­hav­ior by you, namely pro­mis­cu­ous and em­bar­rass­ing sex­ual be­hav­ior, in­ap­pro­pri­ate use of an au­thor­i­ta­tive po­si­tion, lack of ap­pro­pri­ate judg­ment, and ob­struc­tion of ev­i­dence,” Custer wrote.

Custer de­clined to com­ment for this story, say­ing, “I con­sider em­ployee per­son­nel mat­ters to be del­i­cate mat­ters, and it is my pol­icy that I want to main­tain in­tegrity with re­gard to all par­ties in­volved in this mat­ter.”

Rose is ap­peal­ing the de­ci­sion at a hear­ing at 9 a.m. Mon­day at East Ridge City Hall. Union representatives will be present.

“All we are look­ing at is what he has done legally and if there was any pol­icy vi­o­la­tions, which at this point, ev­ery­body agreed there is none,” said Vince Cham­pion, the south­east re­gional di­rec­tor of the In­ter­na­tional Brother­hood of Po­lice Of­fi­cers.” … We do not con­done by any means hav­ing any re­la­tion­ships with un­der­age chil­dren. How­ever, this per­son was not un­der­age.”

The tim­ing of the ter­mi­na­tion is no­table, as it came on the same day po­lice Chief J.R. Reed was sus­pended.

Con­tact staff writer Rosana Hughes at [email protected]­freep­ress. com or 423-757-6327 with tips or story ideas. Fol­low her on Twit­ter @Hughes Rosana.

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