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A Cleveland, Tenn., police officer is on leave and under investigation for what are believed to be allegations of sexual misconduct.
If true, it would be at least the third time that such allegations have been raised against Officer Ross Wooten since he joined the Cleveland department in 2004, records and newspaper archives show.
Three sources with law enforcement ties told the Chattanooga Times Free Press that the complaint was related to an incident this week in which Wooten answered a call to a public housing apartment, then came back later and had sexual contact with a woman connected to the investigation.
The Cleveland Police Department confirmed that a complaint was filed Tuesday and Wooten is on administrative leave, but did not provide any information on the substance of the complaint. Spokeswoman Evie West said all information on the complaint was forwarded to the 10th Judicial District Attorney's Office.
Assistant District Attorney Stephen M. Hatchett said in an email he could not comment before a charging decision is made.
Wooten could not be reached for comment. A telephone listing for him was out of service and West said she had no information on whether he has an attorney.
The earlier allegations were reported in the Times Free Press.
The newspaper reported in 2006 that the year before, a woman complained that Wooten had strip-searched her and forced her to have sex with him. She also complained he destroyed two crack pipes he took from her instead of turning them in as evidence. An internal investigation found "insufficient evidence" of coerced sex but Wooten was suspended for three days for mishandling evidence, according to newspaper archives.
In 2006, the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation arrested Wooten on two counts of official misconduct related to complaints by two women that Wooten had sex with them the prior year.
Records from Tennessee's Peace Officers Standards and Training Commission show Wooten was suspended from the Cleveland Police Department from July 25, 2006, to Feb. 6, 2007. The records show Wooten was found not guilty on one count and the other count was dismissed, and he went back on duty.
The Times Free Press has documented a history of alleged sexual misconduct by Cleveland police officers.
In late 2011, the Times Free Press reported that the department failed in 2008 to investigate rumors that officers were abusing prescription pills and having sex with 14-, 15- and 16-year-old girls. One of the officers was known to have had relationships with a teenage girl nearly a decade before, but no questions were asked. Police Chief Wes Snyder said at the time there was no proof to justify an investigation.
Instead, the suspect officers were called to a meeting in May 2008 and warned against "dating minors, porn on city-owned phones, consumption of alcoholic beverages while off-duty, snorting crushed pills [and] oral sex in public" and other misbehavior, according to a memo on Cleveland Police Department stationery.
When an investigation finally began in 2009, two officers went to state prison on statutory rape charges.
Another officer, Jeremy Noble, was not involved in the 2008 case, but police internal investigation files reported he was named in 2003 and 2004 reports saying he tried to date students while working as a school resource officer at Cleveland High School, that he left campus with a girl at least three times, and that he propositioned a Lee University student.
In 2009, Noble was demoted and suspended without pay after he confessed to having three sexual affairs while on duty.
The Cleveland department's sister agency, the Bradley County Sheriff's Office, also has had recent troubles with sexual allegations.
And this month, Capt. Jimmy Woody left the department and pleaded guilty to tampering with evidence. According to the district attorney's office, Woody was "solicited by a female acquaintance."
Multiple sources told the Times Free Press that Woody advised a woman how to dispose of some stolen property in exchange for sex.
The TBI began looking into the allegation but Woody quickly pleaded guilty and was placed on judicial diversion, records show.
Contact staff writer Judy Walton at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6416.
Judy Walton has worked 25 years at the Chattanooga Times and the Times Free Press as an editor and reporter focusing on government coverage and investigations. At various times she has been an assistant metro editor, region reporter and editor, county government reporter, government-beat team leader, features editor and page designer. Originally from California, Walton was brought up in a military family and attended a dozen schools across the country. She earned a journalism degree ...