(Tipton County, TN) A Tipton County deputy sheriff has been put on administrative leave, pending the outcome of a criminal investigation into his alleged sexual relationship with a 17-year-old for the past two months.
The Tipton County Sheriff’s Office found out the relationship internally and reported it to the girl’s parents.
29-year-old Jason Cochran is accused of having sex with the girl while off duty. He is on leave without pay.
“We’re in shock, we’re embarrassed, and we’re upset,” said Chief Donna Turner.
The sheriff’s office does not investigate their own employees, for possibility of conflict of interest. They have called the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation to handle the case.
The Tipton County district attorney will then decide if charges will be filed.
A TBI spokesman confirmed they are investigating Jason Cochran at the request of District Attorney General Mike Dunavant. An internal investigation is also happening within the sheriff’s department. No other employees have been found to be involved in this case.
So far, Cochran has not been criminally charged.
In a typical case like this, Chief Turner explained that charges could include aggravated statutory rape or aggravated rape. He could also be charged with solicitation or exploitation of a minor, or more charges, depending on whether electronics were used.
The “aggravated” status is usually applied to cases where the two people are more than 10 years apart. “Statutory” will apply if the activity was consensual.
“It’s just pitiful,” said Troy Jones, who lives in Covington. “He got to pay for it. That’s it.”
Some citizens questioned the background screening process for law enforcement officers, but the requirements are already strict.
Cochran started as a correctional officer in April of 2007. He then applied and was chosen to be a sheriff’s deputy in April of 2011.
In order to become a deputy, Chief Turner said, “There’s interviews, there’s a civil service test, as well as a psychological test. As well as a full background, even if you’ve worked for us, there’s a background that’s done, and obviously there was no indication from his prior employment here.”
Nothing marred Cochran’s record until now.
“You can have a good record, but some things happen down the road,” Jones said.
It’s a shock to citizens like Valerie Calhoun, who is among many with high opinions of their sheriff’s deputies.
“Those are pretty much people we put our lives in their hands, so of course we need better than that. We need to be represented better than that” Calhoun said.
Parents told News Channel 3 this is a reminder to keep an eye on their children at all times, to know where they’re going and whom they’re with.
“If it was my child,” Calhoun said, she would “just try to teach them to respect themselves, and if anything inappropriate goes on, if they felt like they couldn’t tell me, tell somebody, because it needs to be handled.”