NEW: Police were told in 2013 investigation that officer solicited sex from teen
At one point, when the teen received a traffic ticket outside Jefferson County, the officer told him he would take care of it for sexual favors, according to sources close to the investigation.
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- A teenager told police investigators in 2013 that an officer in the Louisville Metro Police Department’s Explorer program offered him money for sex and promised to take care of a traffic citation in exchange for sexual favors, according to sources with knowledge of the investigation.
The teen made the allegations against former Officer Kenneth Betts during an inquiry into Betts’ relationship with a different participant of the program, a 16-year-old girl who claims the officer texted her shirtless pictures of himself and asked to meet her and “make out,” the sources say.
The internal investigation by the department’s professional standards unit found that Betts violated police procedures but committed no criminal acts involving the girl, the sources said.
There was no investigation into the male teenager’s allegations, a police source said, and Betts avoided any discipline by leaving the department in April 2014.
Police Chief Steve Conrad closed the case “by exception” when Betts resigned, saying “no further action need be taken.”
Conrad declined multiple interview requests, including one made Friday afternoon. He cancelled a scheduled appearance Thursday night at an event at the Clifton Center.
Police spokeswoman Alicia Smiley said in a statement that Conrad is "barred from speaking about the allegations due to the court order sealing the lawsuit." She declined to elaborate or address questions about the chief's decision to close the 2013 investigation into Betts.
But it is that decision that some Metro Council members questioned this week after new allegations against Betts surfaced in a lawsuit filed last week.
Metro Council member David James, a former Louisville police officer, questioned why the department stopped its 2013 probe when Betts resigned, “because it would seem you would want to investigate that all the other children were safe.”
James said all parents with children in the Explorer program should have been contacted at the time.
“A comprehensive, top-to-bottom investigation should have been done to ensure the safety of all the kids in the program,” James said in an interview Friday.
The lawsuit, filed last week by Metro Council President and attorney David Yates, claims Betts and another officer, Brandon Wood, raped a male teenager over several years while he was in the Explorer program and accuses the department of covering up the case.
Police sources say the alleged victim, named only as N.C. in the lawsuit, was not part of the earlier investigation involving Betts.
The lawsuit has been sealed by a Jefferson Circuit Court judge. Its existence and contents were first reported by The Courier-Journal.
Although the 2013 investigation has long been over, police have refused to release it in full, saying state law requires that only the probe’s initiation letter and conclusions are public record.
Neither of the teens in the case is involved with the recent lawsuit.
In the 2013 case, the female teen said Betts’ repeated advances prompted her to bring it to the attention of other officers in the program, sources said, adding there was no sexual contact between the two.
The Explorer program mentors teens interested in becoming police officers. Students work closely with officers at events such as the Kentucky Derby.
Some of the texts between the girl and Betts are included in the internal investigation, according to police sources.
The other Explorer, a male described in his late teens, did not file a complaint but told other officers during the investigation about Betts’ behavior, sources say. The teen said Betts asked him for sexual favors in person while riding along with the officer, and through text messages, according to sources’ description of the investigation.
The teen also told police Betts asked him for group sex and for the officer to perform oral sex on him, the sources say.
At one point, when the teen received a traffic ticket outside Jefferson County, Betts told him he would take care of it for sexual favors, according to those close to the investigation. The sources said Betts also offered the teen money for sex, but the teen said he repeatedly declined the offers.
Sources said the teen reported the conduct to Wood, who reported it to his commander, Maj. Curtis Flaherty. Flaherty, along with Betts and Wood, are named as defendants in the lawsuit.
Wood maintains he is innocent, said his attorney, Steve Schroering, It’s unclear if Flaherty has an attorney.
Brian Butler, who represents Betts, has declined to comment.
Metro Council members and police officers have said the 2013 case should have prompted Conrad to conduct a criminal investigation.
But when Betts resigned, there was no further investigation of the program until allegations surfaced against Wood last year, including videos of sex acts, sources said.
It is typical for police to close a case under investigation by the professional standards unit when an officer leaves.
In his resignation letter from March 2014, Betts said although he was due for a promotion, he had accepted another opportunity to finish his doctorate degree, and his time with the department would come to an end on May 1, 2014.
The department's Public Integrity Unit conducts criminal investigations of officers. Those cases do not end with an officer's resignation or retirement.
Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer temporarily suspended the Explorer program amid the accusations on Monday. Late Friday afternoon, the mayor appointed a special investigator, former U.S. Attorney Kerry B. Harvey, to conduct a special investigation into what he called “disturbing” allegations.
Chris Poynter, a Fischer spokesman, said Conrad would speak more about the 2013 case if and when the lawsuit filed last week is unsealed. Fischer has asked for it to be unsealed.
More than half of Louisville's Metro Council members also have called for an independent investigation of the department.
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