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Texas police recruit charged over conduct with teen girl at camp

A 23-year-old man who was set to start training at the Odessa police academy this month is instead facing federal charges stemming from his relationship with a 15-year-old girl. The two were both working at a summer camp for underprivileged children run by the Police Athletic League. He was working at the camp, as some other Odessa Police Department recruits do, in a civilian capacity, from June 9 through July 3.

That last day was when someone reported potential inappropriate behavior to the OPD between a civilian employee and a 15-year-old girl. The girl was taken to Harmony Home to be interviewed. According to its website, Harmony Home is a children’s advocacy center in Odessa.

The teen reportedly said that she and the man had exchanged messages and had met daily at various locations around the camp. She said he had asked her to send him nude photos of herself. Police found sexually explicit images on her phone of a man with scar that matched that of the defendant.

Many young people who once attended the camp, which is for kids between 8 and 13 years old, return when they are older as volunteers. It was not reported whether that was the case with this girl.

The police recruit, who resigned from the OPD during his own questioning, admitted to having a physical relationship with the girl and to sending explicit photos of himself to her. However, he said they never had sex, and she never sent him nude photos of herself. He is facing a federal charge of sending obscene material to someone under 16.

This is the fourth case of alleged sexual misconduct by an OPD employee in the past year. The others did not involve the camp. Two involved people who had been arrested.

While relationships between young people where one is minor and the other is not are not uncommon, the laws are specific about what is and is not considered a sex crime. When the older person is in a position of authority, like a teacher or law enforcement officer, the penalties for sexual assault can be even more severe. In addition to holding people who engage in illegal sexual conduct criminally, victims and their families may be able to hold them civilly liable.

Source: OAOnline, "Police civilian recruit accussed of sending obscene material to a minor," Jared Wilson, July 8, 2014.

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