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Tarpon Springs officer who called and texted student thousands of times is under review

TARPON SPRINGS — A Tarpon Springs police officer called or sent text messages to a female high school student he had authority over more than 5,300 times over the course of five months — an average of 34 times a day, a report shows.

Tarpon police Cpl. Michael Kazouris, 36, was cleared last week of criminal charges in an investigation that began when allegations of an inappropriate relationship surfaced in November.

But Kazouris is the subject of an ongoing internal affairs review to determine if his conduct violated any department policies or procedures.

The calls and messages began in April — before the woman turned 18 in May and graduated from Tarpon Springs High in June — and ended in late September, according to the 16-page report from the criminal investigation.

The investigation also found that Kazouris and the woman, who is not being named by the St. Petersburg Times because she was underage when the relationship began, had sex at Kazouris' home on at least three occasions, though those incidents happened after she graduated.

Kazouris, who joined the department in 2004, led the department's school resource officer team, which last summer was named the unit of the year by the Florida Association of School Resource Officers.

According to the report, the relationship started after the young woman was assigned to be an assistant to Kazouris. While they patrolled school grounds together, Kazouris began telling her about problems he was having with his wife, she told police. His disclosures originally made her feel uncomfortable, she said.

As the two grew closer, Kazouris told the woman that "he really liked her but had to wait until she graduated to do anything," she told police.

He started sending her text messages "and would write things like 'opening the Jr. lot, want to come over for a quickie?,' " the report shows.

Seventy-nine of the 5,359 calls and texts were made from Kazouris' police-issued cell phone; the rest from his personal cell phone.

It's unclear from the woman's statements when the physical relationship began. She told detectives that Kazouris kissed her in his office at the school in early June, less than two weeks after her 18th birthday. She said he kissed her in the office another time, but she could not recall exactly when that happened.

After her graduation, the woman went to Kazouris' home at least five times, she said. Initially, she told police that the two had only "simulated sex" in his bed on three occasions. She later confessed the two had actually had sexual intercourse.

The young woman said Kazouris' wife, who is not named in the report, began calling her cell phone, though she didn't answer the calls. Shortly thereafter, Kazouris informed her "I'm going to have to drop you," according to the report.

Kazouris could not be reached for comment Tuesday.

Kazouris, a 1991 graduate of Tarpon Springs High, earns $48,161 annually. He has been on paid administrative leave since early November when the allegations were first reported.

According to Kazouris' personnel file, he was an officer for Pinellas County Schools Police from 1997 to 2004. School district spokeswoman Andrea Zahn said records show no complaints were filed against Kazouris during that time.

Before that, he was an officer with the Clearwater and Madeira Beach police departments.

Kazouris' Tarpon personnel file contains more than three dozen letters of commendation and does not contain any disciplinary action. He has not been the subject of an internal review until now, police officials said.

Tarpon police closed their criminal investigation after determining the sexual relationship happened after the woman turned 18. Police spokeswoman Lt. Barbara Templeton declined to comment on the ongoing internal affairs investigation.

Rita Farlow can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 445-4162.

The report shows

5,359 Number of times the officer called or sent texts to the student

79 Number of those calls or texts the report says he made with his police-issued cell phone.

5 Number of months over which those calls or text messages took place.

34 The average number of times the officer called or texted the student a day.

Source: A 16-page report from the criminal investigation

Tarpon Springs officer who called and texted student thousands of times is under review 02/24/09 [Last modified: Tuesday, February 24, 2009 9:55pm]
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