By Tim Cushing
The people who are supposed to be the bulwark standing between regular society and criminal society are, far too often, criminals themselves. They promise they’re doing everything they can to end the sexual exploitation of children but often aren’t willing to address the exploitation committed by officers.
The Louisville Metro Police is still dealing with the fallout of a botched no-knock raid, which ended with officers killing Breonna Taylor in her own apartment. Six of the 32 bullets fired by LMPD officers — some blindly through covered windows — hit Taylor. No officers were charged in Taylor’s death.
The PD is now dealing with another scandal involving its officers. Criminal charges have been brought against three officers who sexually abused minors participating in the PD’s “Explorer Program.”
A third Louisville Metro Police officer has been indicted on charges of sexually abusing a juvenile in the department’s now-defunct Explorer Program for youths aspiring to be in law enforcement.
A federal grand jury indictment accuses Brad Schuhmann, while acting as a police officer, of sexually abusing a minor in 2010, saying he “willfully deprived” a juvenile identified as Jane Doe “of liberty without due process of law, which includes the right not to have her bodily integrity violated by a person acting under color of law.”
This side project of the Boy Scouts of America has produced nearly as many sexual abuse allegations as the Boy Scout program itself. What happened in Louisville isn’t an aberration. Putting cops in close contact with minors appears to be a bad idea.
In recent decades, more than 100 police officers have had sex with Explorers they were entrusted with mentoring, the vast majority of them underage. In just the past year, two sheriff’s deputies in San Bernardino, California, were arrested for having sex with underage girls; a New York City cop was charged with child sex abuse after sending racy text messages to a 15-year-old; an officer in Bremerton, Washington, was reprimanded for sleeping with an 18-year-old; and a former cop in Burlington, North Carolina, pled guilty to taking indecent liberties with a minor after being accused of having sex with a 14-year-old he’d taken on ride-alongs.
That’s from a 2011 report. There have been numerous other incidents since then. The Louisville Courier Journal’s coverage of this current scandal — which dates back to 2017 — shows the problem infects law enforcement agencies around the nation.
In the wake of Louisville’s own Explorer scandal, in which two former officers have been accused of sexually abusing Scouts and the police department of covering it up, the Courier-Journal found that over the past 40 years, at least 137 girls and 26 boys have been allegedly raped, seduced, fondled, kissed, dated or otherwise exploited in 28 states by at least 129 law enforcement officers, firefighters and other advisers.
The youngest victims were 13. One was in the sixth grade.
One officer tried to set up three-way sex with Explorers. Another took surreptitious photographs of Explorers’ underwear. A third took bondage photos of boys he took on Civil War re-enactment camping trips. In Warick, Rhode Island, six officers had sex with one girl. In Bandon, Oregon, five officers made a sex tape featuring two girls and two boys.
Seventy-five cases resulted in criminal charges and 19 in lawsuits, including one that cost Irwindale, California, a city of only 1,422 people, $2.75 million to settle.
The latest twist in the LMPD’s ongoing scandal is its apparently deliberate attempt to hide documents related to this abuse from journalists. And the department did this with the county and city’s approval.
Louisville Metro Police concealed at least 738,000 records documenting the sexual abuse of Explorer Scouts by two officers — then lied to keep the files from the public, records show.
The Courier Journal last year requested all records regarding sexual abuse of minors by two officers in the Explorer Scout program for youths interested in law enforcement careers.
Police officials and the Jefferson County Attorney’s Office said they couldn’t comply, insisting all the records had been turned over to the FBI for its investigation.
But that wasn’t true, according to records The Courier Journal recently obtained in the appeal of its open records case.
In fact, the department still had at least 738,000 records, which the city allowed to be deleted.
While it’s true the FBI is in the middle of an investigation, the PD still had its own copies of those files on hand. Or, at least it did until the Courier Journal started asking for them. The PD then insisted it had turned everything over to the FBI. This assertion was backed up by the Assistant County Attorney. Supposedly, the FBI had “taken control” of everything, including any physical or digital copies the LMPD might have had on hand.
This assertion by County Attorney Annale Taylor was directly contradicted by the LMPD’s own statements in emails to the attorney.
Three months earlier, in June, Louisville Sgt. Robert Banta, a task force member, had told Taylor in an email he could provide “any and all documents involved in the Explorer investigation up until April 1, 2017, when the federal investigation was initiated.”
“All that information still resides in the PIU (Professional Integrity Unit) case file and is available to the county attorney’s office,” Banta said in his June 6, 2019, email, which he also sent to then-Chief Steve Conrad and LMPD legal adviser Dennis Sims.
And the denial any records still existed was contradicted by the county attorney’s office in another email to the attorney general’s office. This email said the LMPD had found thousands of documents in a “hidden folder.” A letter sent to the paper’s attorneys made it clear the PD had retained almost everything it had previously claimed the FBI was in sole possession of.
In an Oct. 21 letter to The Courier Journal’s lawyers “amending previous factual statements made in error,” Assistant County Attorney Roy Denny acknowledged 9,700 folders containing 738,000 documents — 470 gigabytes of data — had been found on the secret folder.
The catch was these had been backed up to the city’s servers, but only temporarily. These had been turned over to the FBI as well — months after the paper had asked for them — and wiped from city’s backup.
The paper is now accusing the LMPD and city of destroying records. The county attorney office’s legal representative, Kenyon Meyer, insists no destruction has occurred. The paper still has the option of demanding these records from the FBI.
Just little intra-government coverup, apparently. The city and PD seem more than willing to deal with accusations of records destruction and open records law violations if it means they won’t immediately have to deal with whatever’s in the thousands of files related to multiple officers’ sexual abuse of minors. Sending these away to the FBI — and deleting their own copies — places the paper back at square one. It will take another set of FOIA requests — and more litigation — to acquire the records these two entities seemingly want buried.