HATTIESBURG, MS (WDAM) - The Mississippi Court of Appeals affirmed the upholding of a ruling of a former Hattiesburg patrol officer’s appeal after he was released for “conduct unbecoming of an officer” in 2015.
Sergeant Clint Breland was released after the department alleged he had a sexual relationship with a 16-year-old girl both on and off duty. According to court documents, Breland made a traffic stop on the 16-year-old for a moving violation back in 2011. Court documents revealed that Breland did not give the teen a ticket for the moving violation, but instead gave her a warning. Thereafter, they shared personal information, both in person and online.
Breland was later fired as a police officer for allegedly violating provisions of the City’s Administrative Operations Manual. Breland appealed his termination to the Hattiesburg Civil Service Commission (HCSC), which upheld his discharge for conduct unbecoming an officer, neglect of duty, and abuse of city time. Breland also appealed to the circuit court, which found the HCSC’s finding within its purview. In a March 2016 hearing, the HCSC upheld the City’s decision to terminate Breland and specifically found the 16-year-old’s testimony credible and uncontroverted.
Prior to his discharge, Breland and the teen were given polygraph examinations. Breland’s polygraph results indicating him to be “untruthful” during the examination. The 16-year-old testified that she had sexual relations with Breland “pretty often,” including in his patrol car, with him in uniform on at least one occasion. Breland denied he had sexual relations with the teen while on duty, and said he ended the relationship in the summer of 2012 after he discovered she had stolen items from his home and was using methamphetamine.
Breland perfected his appeal to the Forrest County Circuit Court, which upheld the decision of the HCSC. The HCSC said it considered all the facts and considered the teen’s testimony to be a major factor in its decision-making process.
The court of appeals agreed with the circuit court that there was substantial evidence independent of the test for the HCSC to confirm Breland’s termination.
The court found that not all the factual issues and the specific questions raised at the HCSC hearing were litigated fully at the unemployment compensation hearing.