Louisville, KY- a program called the Youth explorer program was created to encourage teens to join law enforcement careers, but the program was eliminated last year over allegations officers were sexually abusing participants. Initially police Chief Steve Conrad suspended The program after rumors began, but reversed himself about a week later at the urging of one officer Curtis Flaherty.
Now it seems Flaherty was one of officers complicit in covering up the abuse. Conrad ordered the program stopped in a Nov. 18, 2016, memorandum obtained by the Courier Journal, citing the Public Integrity Unit’s investigation into former Officer Brandon Wood, the officer originally accused of sexually abusing participants.
“I believe this decision is in the best interest of both our department and the community we serve,” Conrad said.
Maj. Curtis Flaherty, named in a civil lawsuit by a former Scout who says Flaherty helped cover up the sexual abuse, sent a memo three days later asking the chief to lift the suspension.
“I believe this suspension penalizes the Explorers who have invested so much of their time in the program,” Flaherty wrote.
Flaherty suggested that the program — meant for youth ages 14 through 19 interested in law enforcement — instead be restricted to two meetings a month. He said a person from either the department’s Professional Standards Unit or the Boy Scout’s Lincoln Heritage Council would be assigned to monitor those meetings.
Flaherty also told Conrad that no parents shared any concerns after being sent a letter informing them about the investigation into Wood. “The attendance at the meetings continues to remain strong,” he said.
In a Nov. 29 response, Conrad agreed to keep the program open despite the investigation. The chief said he preferred assigning a monitor from the Boy Scouts for Explorer meetings over one from within the police department and asked Flaherty to find a monitor.
The revelations about the program’s suspension come amid growing scrutiny of the chief’s decision-making related to the scandal, which has embroiled the police department for more than a year.
Wood and another former officer, Kenneth Betts, were indicted this year on several charges that they had sex with Explorers while they were advisers in the program, which was run by police in partnership with the Boy Scouts of America. Both have pleaded not guilty.
Attorney David Yates, who has filed a civil suit on behalf of a former Explorer alleging abuse, said the suspension and reversal demonstrates that the chief let other commanders guide his decisions even after the investigation began.
“Even after leadership within the department could no longer turn a blind eye to the blatant and extensive sexual abuse of the kids entrusted to the ‘LMPD Explorer pedophilia ring,’ the safety, protection and treatment of the children still came second to Maj. Flaherty’s wishes,” said Yates, who is also Metro Council president.
Attorney Lee Sitlinger, who is representing Flaherty in the civil suit, said his client has always had a heart for the program and believed it could continue given that Wood had been suspended from the program and was assigned to desk duty.
“He thought since Wood was out of the program there was no immediate threat to the kids and he didn’t want the hundred or plus kids to be penalized,” Sitlinger said.
Three years prior to the start of the investigation into Wood, police had also investigated whether Betts had inappropriate contact with a 16-year-old female Explorer Scout.
The girl’s mother said in an interview last year that Betts had sent her daughter photos of himself “half-dressed” and “kind of sexual-looking pictures.”
Public Integrity Unit investigators did not record audio of their interview with the girl and her parents, according to court records, and no police notes from the interview are known to exist.
The former Scout’s mother now alleges that Flaherty urged their family to keep quiet about the situation, according to court records.
Former Explorers in the program have said Flaherty was Betts’ mentor. The two had known each other since Betts was in the Explorer program, and Flaherty wrote a recommendation letter when Betts joined the force in 2006.