Mayor Fischer temporarily suspends LMPD Youth Explorer program over sex abuse allegations

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- Seven former youths who claimed in lawsuits they were sexually abused while in the Louisville Metro Police Department’s Explorer program will be paid $3.65 million.

The lawsuits were filed in March 2018 in U.S. District Court and settled after mediation Friday.

A mediator will decide how much each plaintiff receives.

"We are pleased that this settlement is bringing an end to a long saga for our clients," said attorney Tad Thomas, who represented the seven plaintiffs. "Although it is a significant payment, no amount of money can undo the damage that out clients suffered due to the actions of their abusers and the inaction of the LMPD." 

More than $3 million of the settlement will be paid by Old Republic Insurance Company, the insurer for the Boy Scouts of America, a defendant in the lawsuit. The remainder will be paid by the city's self-insurance, according to a spokesman for the Jefferson County Attorney's office. 

“Since the beginning of the Explorers case, my ultimate goal has been to find the truth and get justice for the victims,” Mayor Greg Fischer said in a statement. “It’s our hope that this settlement brings some closure for those involved. We must continue our work to ensure the appalling interactions that led to this investigation never happen again.”

The plaintiffs, identified in the suit only by initials, made claims against officers that include sexual assault, stalking and harassment. The lawsuits also claimed the department concealed evidence of the conduct by intimidation, destruction of evidence, deletion of information and refusal to comply with the Kentucky Open Records Act, as well as conspiracy to cover up the wrongdoing, according to lawsuits.

Police were also accused of falsifying reports, deleting phone records and audio files and destroying other records.

A federal criminal investigation is still pending. 

Three of the officers named in the suits — Kenneth Betts, Brandon Wood and Bradley Schuhman — all were convicted of sex-related crimes in federal court.

An investigation into LMPD's handling of allegations of sexual misconduct in the youth Explorer program found police made several "mistakes," including a failure to look into possible criminal conduct and determine if the abuse was widespread.

Betts was initially accused of sending inappropriate texts to a 16-year-old female Explorer and asking her to “make-out" in 2013. During the course of that investigation detectives learned that a second Explorer, a male teen, was offered money by Betts in exchange for sex several years prior.

According to the report, after investigators learned of the allegations against Betts, they should have seen that “a pattern could be seen that Betts viewed Explorers as potential sexual partners.” As a result, “every Explorer in the LMPD program, and every Explorer that had previously had contact with Betts, should have been interviewed…”

In addition, the 90 page report by former U.S. Attorney Kerry Harvey, concluded LMPD investigators should have consulted with prosecutors to see if criminal charges should be filed.

But the report ultimately concluded there was no massive cover-up by police or city officials.

“Ultimately, I’m glad the truth came out,” said attorney David Yates, who filed the initial lawsuit against police before Thomas took over. “I hold out hope others will still face criminal consequences. I’m glad these victims of sexual abuse will have some level of justice.”

Thomas said plaintiffs agreed to settle because they were facing an "'uphill battle on statute of limitations issues" and the Boy Scouts of America, a defendant in the suits, filed for bankruptcy. 

Among other officers named in the lawsuits were former Officer Julie Schmidt, who was an adviser in the Explorer program, and Curtis Flaherty, the former head of the Explorer program.

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