Thanks to a Harris County Sheriff's Office policy update, it is now officially against the rules to have sex with witnesses or victims involved in an ongoing investigation — just in case deputies were on the fence about that.
It used to only be officially against the rules to have sex with people in sheriff's office custody, such as inmates and suspects. Now, though, if someone is at all tied to an investigation, sleeping with that person is totally off limits.
The sheriff's office says this policy update is not related to that time a sergeant assigned to investigate the high-profile, national headlines-grabbing murder of HCSO Deputy Darren Goforth slept with a key witness in the case — who just so happened to be the woman who claimed she had had a 15-month affair with Goforth before the deputy's slaying (seriously). Rather, according to HCSO spokesman Ryan Sullivan, people within the department are constantly reviewing HCSO policies and noticed this was something that could be added just within the past couple of weeks.
“It goes without saying that people know the difference between right and wrong,” said Sullivan. “But for the purposes of disciplinary action, you have to anticipate everything, and it has to be in writing; otherwise, it becomes a problem for disciplining.”
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Though it was not an official policy at the time, the investigator in Goforth's case, former sergeant Craig Clopton, was fired two weeks after he admitted to having sex with the witness.
Anthony Osso, the attorney representing the man charged in Goforth's murder, Shannon Miles, said it remains to be seen how Clopton's ethical ordeal will affect the case. But if he's taking a wild guess, the change in policy was a direct response to Clopton's risky behavior. “I think that was an eye opener to the administration,” he said. “There may have been some internal workings that I'm not aware of that necessitated putting it in writing, but otherwise, it's good common sense: If you're investigating a crime, don't sleep with the active parties.”
For now, the only effect he's certain the scandal has had is on the public's trust in sheriff's office investigations.