Off-duty Columbus officer arrested by WPPD

Staff Writer

A Columbus police officer is under investigation by West Point Police for alleged inappropriate sexual activity with a juvenile but as of Saturday evening, no charges had been filed.

A Columbus Police press release Friday said the officer, who has been with the department for less than a year, had been “taken into custody” by West Point Police. But the officer has not shown up on Clay County Jail records as having been arrested.

Saturday evening, West Point Police Chief Avery Cook confirmed the officer has not been charged.

West Point and Columbus police have declined to release any details, citing an ongoing investigation and personnel issues.

The officer, who Columbus and West Point police have declined to name, was picked up so he could be served a search warrant for his cell phone records involving communications with a juvenile male, sources tell the Daily Times Leader.

In its press release, Columbus police said the incident or incidents did not occur when their officer was on duty.

That is significant because under state law, a probable cause hearing must be held in circuit court prior to an arrest warrant being issued if the alleged crime occurred while in the performance of official duties. The provision is designed to shield police officers, deputies, teachers and other public officials from frivolous arrests.

The officer has been with the Columbus department for less than a year and still is in his probationary period, meaning he does not fall under civil service protections and can be fired immediately.

In a press release, Columbus Police said the officer has been placed on paid administrative leave.

The Columbus City Council will take up the matter at its meeting Tuesday night.

“Since this is a personnel matter, we will not be releasing any details on the charges or the officer involved,” said Columbus Police Chief Fred Shelton. “This is an ongoing criminal investigation that is being conducted completely by the West Point Police Department. The Columbus Police Department is not involved in the investigation but is cooperating fully.”

The officer formerly worked at the Lowndes County Sheriff's Department, but not as a deputy, according to city sources. But Sheriff's Chief Deputy Marc Miley said he was not aware of anyone who might fall into that situation.