SULLIVAN COUNTY, TN (WJHL) – A longtime Kingsport Police Department officer pleaded guilty to patronizing prostitution in Sullivan County court on Monday after investigators said an undercover camera caught a prostitute performing a sex act on him while on duty.
According to Sullivan County District Attorney Barry Staubus, Tennessee Bureau of Investigation special agents started investigating allegations of sexual misconduct involving Ralph Cline, a Kingsport Police Department lieutenant, last month. The investigation started after KPD alerted the DA with an unverified tip that an officer might be involved in inappropriate or potentially criminal activity.
“In the interest of complete public transparency, K.P.D. self-reported this unverified information to the Office of the 2nd Judicial District Attorney so that a completely unbiased investigation could be conducted by an independent agency,” KPD Chief David Quillin said in a statement.
The TBI investigation resulted in agents installing a camera in Cline’s unmarked police cruiser, which caught a prostitute performing a sex act on Cline while on duty and parked in a hospital parking lot, according to Staubus. Staubus said Cline later admitted to other instances involving the same prostitute.
Cline pleaded guilty to one count of misdemeanor patronizing prostitution on Monday and News Channel 11 was in the courtroom.
He will be sentenced in February but has requested judicial diversion, which if granted, would allow the crime to be expunged.
Cline resigned from the police department last week.
Chief Quillin sent us the following statement:
The Kingsport Police Department initially received a tip indicating the possibility that an unnamed K.P.D officer might be involved in inappropriate/potentially criminal activity.In the interest of complete public transparency, K.P.D. self-reported this unverified information to the Office of the 2nd Judicial District Attorney so that a completely unbiased investigation could be conducted by an independent agency.As a direct result of the findings of this investigation, Ralph Cline is no longer employed by the Kingsport Police Department. The matter has been adjudicated in court and is now considered closed.”
TBI agents weren’t the only ones investigating Cline. We started running surveillance on him two weeks ago after learning he routinely left the police department during the day.
“There was information that he was making departures from the office,” Staubus said. “Of course, he had a position of leadership where he had the authority to drive around the city and travel, but that was one of the factors that we looked at.”
On October 24, we spotted Cline’s unmarked cruiser outside Kingsport First Assembly Church of God. The church’s administrative assistant confirmed Cline works there part-time as a bookkeeper. On that day, he spent more than an hour at the church and did not return to the police department for at least another hour, according to our surveillance.
We continue to investigate that aspect and sent off a new public records request Thursday for more information. We will let you know what, if anything, we find.
Our community watchdog says Cline was booked into jail and released.
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