East Ridge police officer fired after having sex with high school senior

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 in 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of Police Officers got involved when Rose was kicked off the SWAT team for allegedly bringing up concerns about outdated equipment against Police Chief J.R. Reed's orders.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] or 423-757-6327 with tips or story ideas. Follow her on Twitter @HughesRosana.