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Longboat Key Thursday, Jun. 28, 2018 1 year ago

Longboat officer resigns over improper photos

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Longboat Key police officer Jeffery Houchins has resigned after a department investigation into his use of a personal phone to take pictures of bodies while on duty.
by: Bret Hauff Staff Writer

A Longboat Key Police officer found to have taken photos of dead bodies with his personal phone while on the job has resigned, according to the department.

Jeffery Houchins, a 48-year-old who has worked at the department for three years, resigned June 28 after an internal investigation into his conduct found at least half a dozen instances where he had taken improper photos while on duty.

Although Houchins resigned, Police Chief Pete Cumming said the investigation will follow him through his career.

“It was inappropriate,” Cumming said. “Not any one of these incidents would have led to termination, but together it showed us a course of conduct that was not acceptable to the Longboat Key Police Department, period.”

While there is no law against taking photos of dead people while on the job, Cumming called the behavior “a boneheaded move” in an interview weeks ago.

The Longboat Key Police Department became aware of Houchins’ behavior May 10, two days after two vehicles hit and killed a man on Gulf of Mexico Drive. Cumming said Houchins showed his wife photos he’d taken of the victim. Houchins’ wife later called the chief to inform him of the incident.

Cumming said he called Houchins into his office within two hours of receiving the phone call to counsel him about what he had done wrong. That counseling included the chief telling Houchins his behavior could lead to termination if it happened again.

“He may have been photographing things that he shouldn’t have been,” Cumming said. “We found that, in fact, did happen. After learning that, I no longer felt that he could perform his duties as a police officer having lost his trust with the community.”

This incident led to a change in the town of Longboat Key’s hiring practices to review candidates’ previous three years of job applications, rather than one year. More than a year ago, Houchins applied at a different police department but was not hired after showing inappropriate photos to one of its officers. The event has also sparked a full review of the town’s hiring practices by Town Manager Tom Harmer.

I’m a Longboat Key Staff Reporter. I write stories about how decisions and events affect the island, its leaders and its citizens. I received a bachelor's degree in journalism from Emerson College, where I wrote for The Boston Globe. Reach me at 941-366-3468 ext. 333.

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