LMPD officer involved in Explorer Program sex abuse case also involved in 2013 investigation

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – The mother of a former participant in the Louisville Metro Police youth Explorer program told police the head of the unit "encouraged" her to not tell anyone about her daughter being sexually harassed by an officer in 2013, new court documents claim.

In an interview with investigators last year, the woman said that in 2013, then-officer Kenneth Betts was sending her teen daughter “half-dressed … sexual looking pictures."

When the girl turned 16, Betts began trying to have a sexual relationship with her, according to a summary of the police interview included in about 1,000 pages of documents and pictures filed in Jefferson Circuit Court. 

The mother claims she and her husband were “encouraged” by the “head of the Explorer program" not to speak with anyone else about her concerns, records show. 

“[H]e wanted to keep it under the radar,” according to the records, released in the criminal investigation of Betts and former Officer Brandon Wood.

Former Maj. Curtis Flaherty was head of the Explorer program at the time. Flaherty has been accused in a civil lawsuit of covering up sexual abuse by officers in the Explorer program. His attorney has denied that. 

When Betts remained a part of the program after the mother complained, the woman removed her daughter from it, according to the records.

However, an officer with LMPD’s internal affairs division encouraged the family to keep in contact with Betts, who had continued to text the girl.

The internal affairs sergeant told the woman it “would be an important investigation and stated it was on the top of the list on the chief’s desk,” according to a summary of the investigation. 

After some time, the woman was told that Betts was “let go” from the department but there was “never any closure” in her daughter’s case. The woman is not identified in court records. 

The discovery, made public on Thursday, reveals that several former members of the Explorer program told police investigators last fall of "inappropriate" sexual advances by officers and on-going sexual relationships with officers in the mentoring initiative for young people.

The investigation into Wood appears to have started about one year ago, the recently released documents show. On September 22, 2016, a man who was in a relationship with Wood told an LMPD investigator that he and Wood filmed themselves having sex, and Wood later shared the video in a text message with “a minor named [REDACTED] (LMPD Explorer)."

Five days later, the investigator wrote in a report that a former member of the Explorer program left because “he learned that Officer Wood ‘wanted more’ from him and he knew Officer Wood would ‘take advantage’ of him if they were left alone.”

The report also reveals an incident that allegedly occurred at an Explorer competition in Fort Collins, Colo., at which a former Explorer told LMPD that Betts, who was a program adviser at the time, had touched his genitals.

Several Explorers told police they had sex with Betts or Woods or were harassed by the officers, either through graphic messages or in person. 

One former Explorer told police last year that he had sex with both Betts and Wood in 2011 and 2012. The names of the former Explorers are redacted from the records. He told police he did not want to have sex with the officers, but thought it would make them like him. 

Yet another Explorer alleges he asked to go on a ride-along with Betts around 2007, who told him the teen "mess around with him," according to court records. While at Betts' home, the former Explorer said the officer forced himself on the teen.

When the teen refused to have sex with Betts, he told police the officer kicked him out of his home and refused to let him participate in a ride-long. He also claims he began living with Wood in 2010, though the two were only friends. 

The former Explorer was able to accurately describe Betts' bed room, according to the interview with police from last year. 

Betts and Wood have been indicted for sexually abusing teens. They and retired Maj. Flaherty are accused in a civil lawsuit of covering it up. 

That lawsuit alleges that Wood and Betts molested, abused and raped a teen known only “N.C.” and recorded the sexual acts.

In addition, police officials are accused of concealing 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 the suit.

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

Allegations against Betts date from as early as 2013, when the 16-year-old girl claimed the officer texted her shirtless pictures of himself and asked to meet her and "make out."

During that internal police investigation, a male teen told police that Betts offered him money for sex and promised to take care of a traffic citation in exchange for sexual favors.

The internal investigation by the department’s professional standards unit found that Betts violated police procedures but committed no criminal acts involving the girl.

There was no investigation into the male teenager’s allegations, and Betts avoided any discipline by leaving the department in April 2014.

Police Chief Steve Conrad closed that case "by exception" when Betts resigned, saying "no further action need be taken."

In the documents released Thursday, one officer involved in the 2013 investigation acknowledged that police did not record interviews, but should have. And the officer said she heard that Wood was having parties at his home with Explorers but did not pass that information along to supervisors. 

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