Veteran officer accused of molesting two 9-year-olds

By Times Staff Writer
Published March 6, 2005

CLEARWATER - A veteran officer with the Tampa Police Department was arrested Friday, accused of molesting two 9-year-old girls, according to the Pinellas County Sheriff's Office.

Ernesto F. Hedges, 49, faces two counts of lewd and lascivious molestation.

Hedges, of Tampa, has been with the Tampa Police Department for about 20 years, said police spokesman Joe Durkin. He was a master patrol officer, a senior rank, assigned to District One, which covers Tampa's peninsula, west side and Davis Islands.

The allegations involve a Feb. 26 visit to a family in Pinellas, said Sgt. Tim Goodman of the Pinellas County Sheriff's Office. One alleged victim lived at the home; the other was visiting, Goodman said. The girls said Hedges improperly touched them while they were watching television between 9 and 11:30 p.m., police said. A family member called authorities, Goodman said.

Tampa police administrators will review the circumstances of Hedges' arrest on Monday to determine his employment status. Hedges was held in the Pinellas County jail Saturday in lieu of $50,000 bail.