Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Cop-cadet sex case has precedents

FILE - In this Saturday, Jan. 28, 2012 file photo, Santa Barbara County Sheriff investigators and Santa Maria firefighters stand near the spot where a Santa Maria officer was shot and killed, in Santa Maria, Calif. Police shot and killed a fellow officer when he fired his gun as they tried to take him into custody on suspicion of sexual misconduct with a teenage member of a junior police program, authorities said. It turns out, inappropriate relationships between officers and youths in the junior police program aren’t all that unusual. No organization keeps statistics but an Associated Press examination of news accounts during the 21 years since the Explorers was spun off from the Boy Scouts of America found at least 97 cases involving officers accused of sexual assault on minor girls, and sometimes boys, in the program. MAGS OUT; Photo: The Santa Maria Times, Leah Thompson / AP
Updated 08:32 a.m., Thursday, March 1, 2012
SANTA MARIA, Calif. (AP) — When an on-duty police officer was shot and killed by a colleague a month ago, residents of this agricultural community north of Santa Barbara were horrified. Outrage grew when they learned the shooting occurred as fellow officers tried to arrest the policeman on suspicion he was having a sexual relationship with a 17-year-old girl in the city's "Police Explorers" program.
But inappropriate relationships between officers and youths in the junior police program aren't all that rare. No organization keeps statistics but an Associated Press examination of news accounts during the 21 years since the Explorers was spun off from the Boy Scouts of America found at least 97 cases involving officers accused of sexual assault on minor girls, and sometimes boys, in the program.
And that's likely a fraction of all such incidents, said Samuel Walker, a University of Nebraska-Omaha criminal justice professor and expert on police misconduct and accountability. Most relationships never become public because a youth is unlikely to report it and even if fellow officers are aware, they're reluctant to do anything.
"More often than not other officers know that something wrong is going on and they don't report it," Walker said. "Police departments are like villages: everybody gossips and everybody knows."
The Explorer program is run by Learning for Life, a subsidiary of Boy Scouts of America that pairs young people 14 to 21 with police mentors who take them on ride-alongs, and teach them to write reports and direct traffic in the hope they'll be inspired to pursue law enforcement careers. It is open to anyone, male or female.
Learning for Life representatives would not speak directly to AP, but answered written questions submitted through a public relations firm. National Director Diane Thornton said mentors, before participating, go through a training program aimed at keeping young people safe. Explorers under 18 can't go on ride-alongs after midnight and should not be used in covert operations or as confidential informants or sources, she said.  READ MORE

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