A police officer assigned to a Manchester middle school has been fired after a police investigation found he acted inappropriately towards some students including having out-of-school communications and advising a 13-year-old boy to ask a girl of the same age for nude photographs.
According to an Internal Affairs investigation released Tuesday, Travis Francis, a resource officer at Manchester's Illing Middle School, was fired Aug. 27.
Manchester's police chief said Francis engaged in conduct unbecoming an officer by crossing boundaries, carrying on late night conversations with students, and by hosting an unsanctioned sleepover with two students at his house.
In the Internal Affairs investigation, police said they found a high volume of text conversations between Francis and some Illing Middle School students, including three 13-year-olds and a 14-year-old. Some of the text conversations occurred between 10 p.m. to 3 a.m. and were not during any type of emergency.
The investigation states Francis sent texts to students including, "you awake??" at 2:35 a.m., "I miss you," "what was cute was u falling asleep with ur best friend," "your mine," "I am having [redacted] withdrawals," "love ya...night," and "need to see you." Francis told investigators the texts were a part of something he used called deflection initiatives. He claimed that was a concept he used "with text messages during school and off hours, but said it was when a kid is 'in crisis or upset.’"
The investigation also stated when a student sent Francis a text asking how he should end the night off with another student, Francis replied, "ask for nudes." Investigators said Francis told them that the text was a joke and added, "that is a joke, cause I definitely called him and said don't do that. That's a joke."
Investigators said there were also more than 100 calls between Francis and a student, many of which were logged as FaceTime. One FaceTime call made after 11 p.m. lasted an hour and 50 minutes, according to the investigation.
Investigators also found that Francis hosted a sleepover with two students at his house when he did not have permission from his supervisor to do so. According to the Internal Affairs report, Francis told investigators that the kids stayed at his house with his father while he went to work. After work, Francis told investigators that he picked up another student and then took the kids go-kart riding. Francis said he had permission from the kids' parents to take them on the trip and thought because he was off-duty and knew the parents, he didn't need to get approval from his supervisor.
During an interview, when investigators asked Francis what he thought of the investigation that he was involved in, they said Francis told them, "honestly, I know you are not going to like it. I just think it has then been taken out of context."
He wasn't criminally charged.
Francis told investigators only one parent complained, and he kept in regular contact with that mother about how he was trying to help her son.
Manchester Public Schools Superintendent Matt Geary released a statement on Wednesday saying in part, "Despite this unfortunate and troubling story, I want to assure the MPS community that the school district remains committed to our School Resource Officer program and our strong, positive, important partnership with the Manchester Police Department. In this time of great concern regarding violence in schools, School Resource Officers are a vital part of our work to ensure school safety."
He also said, "As you might recall, I served as the interim principal at Illing during the 2017-18 school year. In April, when a parent made police and school officials aware of text exchanges between the resource officer and a student, I was shocked and concerned. The police department pulled the officer from his position at Illing as it conducted its investigation and assigned a different officer to Illing for the remainder of the school year. As this school year begins, we have a new School Resource Officer assigned to Illing."
He added, "At Illing, counselors and other staff are being especially vigilant to ensure that returning students who knew the previous officer receive appropriate support. I am aware that there are students and parents who have had positive experiences with the officer. However this is clearly difficult for all involved and our primary concern remains supporting the students involved in this case and ensuring that their school experience is positive and their right to privacy is protected."
NBC Connecticut spoke with Francis Wednesday afternoon. He said there are two sides to every story and several parents have reached out to him in support. He declined to say anything further at this time.