EXPLANATION OF SUSTAINED VIOLATIONS
Neglect of Duty: Improper performance of, or a failure to perform, a required duty shall be deemed neglect of duty.
Unbecoming conduct: Employees shall conduct themselves at all times -- both on and off duty -- in such a manner as to reflect favorably on the Department. Conduct unbecoming a public employee includes conduct that is unlawful and/or brings the Department into disrepute, reflects discredit upon the employee as a member of the Department or impairs the operation or efficiency of the Department or officer.
Source: Chattanooga Police Department Policy Manual
Chattanooga police detective Karl Fields was fired Wednesday, seven months after allegations surfaced that he made sexual advances toward a female rape victim in a case he worked.
After investigating the accusations, police Chief Fred Fletcher said Fields neglected his duty and acted in an unbecoming manner.
Fields is the third Chattanooga police officer and second detective to be fired this week on misconduct charges.
In Fields' case, the police department launched an internal investigation last year after a woman gave authorities hundreds of text messages between her and a man who identified himself as Fields. In the messages, Fields flirts with the woman, flatters her, offers her rides and asks her to send naked photos. They exchanged the messages between June and August 2014.
The woman said she never had sex with Fields, despite his persistent advances.
In a police disciplinary hearing Wednesday, Fields faced three alleged violations of police policy: neglect of duty, unbecoming conduct and untruthfulness during an internal investigation.
Fletcher sustained the first two violations but did not sustain the allegation of untruthfulness. Instead, he classified that claim as "pending" because Fields' attorney presented new evidence during the hearing.
But Fletcher will request that Fields lose his Peace Officer Standards and Training Commission certification. If Fields is decertified, he will be unable to work as a police officer in Tennessee.
Fletcher also said he will seek decertification for the other two officers terminated this week.
Detective David Catchings Jr. was fired Monday after he was charged with driving under the influence and domestic assault in two separate incidents in 2014 and early 2015.
Sgt. Kevin Kincer resigned Monday ahead of a disciplinary hearing on allegations including conduct unbecoming, conformance to law, improper procedures involving property, and ethics violations. Kincer pleaded no contest to six charges of official misconduct and theft in November after pills went missing from the evidence room he was supposed to be monitoring.
In Fields' case, his attorney, Jerry Tidwell, said the officer did not contest the unbecoming conduct charge. He fought the other two allegations, though.
"Mr. Fields does not deny sending inappropriate text messages to [the woman,] but he does deny that he was dishonest with investigators," Tidwell said in a release. "Mr. Fields deeply regrets his poor judgment and the embarrassment he has caused the department he served for 12 years and his fellow officers. However, he further insists that he should stand to task for what he did, and not what he did not do."
Through Tidwell, Fields also denied physically assaulting the woman in the bathroom of a restaurant, as she alleged in a civil lawsuit against the city, the police department, Fletcher and Fields.
Tidwell said the internal affairs investigation revealed holes in the woman's story. He said the report noted that the woman deleted some of the text messages between her and Fields before she gave the messages to authorities.
"Apparently TBI noted to internal affairs that there are huge gaps between text messages provided by [this woman]," he said. "It appears she cherry-picked."
Chattanooga police could not provide the internal affairs report to the Times Free Press on Wednesday. But an attorney who represents the woman said Tidwell is wrong.
"I do not believe the text messages were cherry-picked," Stuart James said. "I do believe the texts will show that Karl Fields was abusing his position with the Chattanooga Police Department. He was stalking [the woman]."
After the woman gave authorities copies of the text messages, District Attorney Neal Pinkston asked the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation to conduct a criminal investigation. That investigation has concluded but Fields has not been indicted on any criminal offenses.
McCracken Poston, a second attorney who represents the woman, said he is glad Fields is off the force.
"On her behalf, we are pleased that no other victims or the families will have to endure this problem," he said.
At least one other person has accused Fields of misusing his authority. Gary Taylor, the father of a Chattanooga homicide victim, told the Times Free Press in September that Fields filed a false harassment charge against him while he was investigating the death of Taylor's son.
Prosecutors dismissed the charge against Taylor after they failed to provide a defense attorney with any evidence to support Fields' claims. A judge later expunged the charge from Taylor's criminal record.
Taylor filed an internal affairs complaint against Fields and also plans to file a civil lawsuit.
"Oh, man, this is great news," he said Wednesday, when he learned that Fletcher fired Fields. "It's been a struggle, these false accusations. It took some years off my life. I just hope they indict him as well."
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