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Police Department Rewards Officer Caught By An Online Pedophile Sting With Full Retirement Benefits

from the in-order-to-protect-YOU,-we-must-first-protect-OURSELVES dept

When parents, law enforcement or politicians discuss web-related issues, one topic always comes up: the possibility that predators are actively stalking children through various social media services. Sometimes this issue is conflated with others in order to push legislation through, while other times it's used as convenient shorthand for the dangers of unsupervised communication.

While the issue is often blown out of proportion, the underlying threat still remains. Arguably, it's much smaller problem than these concerned groups make it out to be, but it is still a real problem. Law enforcement, and the politicians who keep them funded, make capturing child predators a priority, often utilizing extensive sting operations and weeks (or months) of undercover work to put these offenders behind bars.

But what happens when the potential sex offender is himself a member of law enforcement? The answer, at least according to the Worcester, MA police department is “not much.” Via Simple Justice comes this ugly story of police protectionism.

The handling of the case involving former Worcester Police Officer Neil Shea and his ensnarement in a sting operation targeting sex predators might have some wondering whether the priority of law enforcement is to protect and serve the community, or to protect and serve itself.

The story begins with an investigation being run by an undercover officer who, while pretending to be a 14-year-old girl, engaged Officer Shea (Latenightcop171) in this conversation:

Latenightcop171 — So you want to learn things

Undercover — What can you teach me

Latenightcop171 — Lot of things

Latenightcop171 — We’d have sex

Undercover — Of course silly, but anything special or weird.

Shortly thereafter, the undercover cop went offline to track down any information on Latenightcop171. The cellphone number provided by Latenightcop171 led back to Officer Shea. Moments after this discovery, the investigation was terminated.

We know that once his identity was discovered, someone from the command post alerted the Worcester Police Department Detective Bureau, which confirmed that Mr. Shea was indeed a member of the department.

We know that once this confirmation was made someone decided to terminate the conversation with Mr. Shea.

We know that the termination was suggested by the Worcester Detective Bureau on the grounds that if Officer Shea had not at that point made “any offers, or broken any law, and that he had not crossed the line, then we should just move on to other more promising subjects.”

Any normal investigation would have continued until the “line” was crossed but in this case, in order to keep one of their own from incriminating himself further, the Detective Bureau called off their own investigator. And it looks as if Officer Shea would have gone further, if given the chance.

We also learned that later, after the undercover officer went offline, law enforcement officials later went back to check the transcript of the chat room conversation and found that “Latenightcop171” had made additional contact, including leaving a friend request.

The District Attorney's office denies any involvement in the investigation's termination. Police Chief Gemme, however, claims the termination call was made by an on-scene police supervisor who decided that there was “insufficient evidence to pursue a criminal complaint.”

What Gemme says is inarguably true, but only because the investigation was shut down, not because any of Officer Shea's actions up to that point indicated he did not want to pursue this further. While it's true that some people have walked up to the precipice (so to speak) and peered over it before deciding to step away, we'll never know for sure if Officer Shea was one of them. Instead, he was met at the precipice by his employers, who carried with them a taxpayer-funded safety net.

Officer Shea obviously wasn't going to be able to escape this situation unscathed, but what he ended up with is a lot more than any average citizen in the same position could possibly expect.

We are told Mr. Shea did not commit any crime, but that it was determined by Police Chief Gary Gemme that Mr. Shea committed several violations, including incompetence, neglect of duty and conduct unbecoming an officer.

Mr. Shea resigned before the investigation, in which all allegations were sustained, was completed. He is free to receive all retirement benefits.

Officer Shea ducked a pedophile sting (with some inside help) and exited with a full pension. This works out well for him, and keeps the Worcester PD from having to dirty its hands any further. But, as The Telegram asks, how does this help the community? You know, the same community Officer Shea was supposed to be protecting from criminal activity like this?

Scott Greenfield at Simple Justice asks the same question, only in a much more righteously furious tone. What “line” does the Worcester PD actually think needs to be crossed before someone like Officer Shea is forced out without collecting benefits?

After all, there is nothing a police officer can do, not even roaming the interwebz to find teenage girls in his community with whom to chat about sexual liaisons, that warrants stripping a cop of his pension. For anyone who doesn't appreciate the importance of the pension, this should make it abundantly clear, as not even his pedophile conduct was sufficient to push him over the line of denying him a pension.

While the mere inquiry, without further action toward making contact happen, may not have pushed this conduct from “unbecoming” to criminal, the termination of the sting before Shea took the next step of setting up a meeting with his new 14-year-old friend precluded his prosecution and, upon conviction, the end of his ability to entice little girls to have sex with him…

Anybody want to bet that all the parents of teenage girls in Worcester are cool with the fact that they are not only paying Shea's pension, but that he's still got unfettered internet access to chat up their babies?

As Greenfield suggests, the next time someone starts wringing their hands about child predators roaming the 'net, be sure to point out that those actively engaged in countering this threat were forced to cut a potential sex offender loose simply because he was one of the “good guys.” How does this police department, in good conscience, sell out its own community in order to keep a fellow officer from being incarcerated or stripped of his benefits? How can they look their fellow citizens in the eye and claim they're here to serve and protect the public?

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Comments on “Police Department Rewards Officer Caught By An Online Pedophile Sting With Full Retirement Benefits”

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76 Comments
Rikuo (profile) says:

They really fucked up here. Letting the cop retire without being charged only lets the public know that they don’t care about the children only themselves. Whereas, if they’d gone through with the investigation, they would have been able to shout from the rooftops that they truly are hard on crime, that not even cops are above the law: if they’d done that, everyone would have won.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re:

I’d guess it’s an “us vs. them” situation, like when evangelicals who preach fire and brimstone against gays are caught with young boys. Their congregation will attack anyone else caught in that situation, but when it’s one of their own they suddenly go “oh, but he’s a good man” or “he just made a mistake”. Protection of their own trumps all else, rather than admit they’re human.

FarSide (profile) says:

This is why I have a poor opinion of cops in general.

When I make it known my distrust of police, I always hear ‘they aren’t all evil.’ Which I agree with.

Are all cops pedophiles? No. Are all cops crooked? Probably not.

However, in story after story, when a single cop if found to be bad or do something wrong, he almost always is protected by the others.

Even if they don’t do the bad thing themselves, the percentage of cops that are either complicit or cover-up or even just ‘look the other way’ is way, way too high.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: This is why I have a poor opinion of cops in general.

Funnily enough, this is the exact response of the Roman Catholic Church with known paedophiles. And yes, “this is just an isolated incident” is the common refrain used to defend people. Remember the phrase:

A few bad apples spoil the bunch.

Moreover, it proves that laws designed “for protecting children” are ineffective, provided you have the right contacts. This is reprehensible and needs to be fixed ASAP.

The Real Michael says:

Re: Re: This is why I have a poor opinion of cops in general.

Less than 1% of all priests had been accused, not proven, of sexual abuse, approx. 80% of which were homosexual in nature. If we’re going to condemn the Catholic Church for the actions of a few bad apples, are we going to do the same for every other religion and occupation under the sun, or is there a double-standard at work?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: This is why I have a poor opinion of cops in general.

The point I was trying to make was that in a number of prominent Catholic countries, the clergy ignored and, in some cases, actively assisted paedophiles to avoid justice. The cases are similar.

When a similar instance came out about the Boy Scouts of America last year, their response was, “Sorry, we were wrong in this and we screwed up, which meant that we didn’t help children.” The Catholic Church did so, after a good long time. The same goes for the BBC and Jimmy Savile.

Further to that, my actual point was that, in so doing, those priests tarnished the image of the clergy with not only the laity, but with possible converts. This incident will do the same to the police organisation affected. And that both saddens and infuriates me.

The Real Michael says:

Re: Re: Re:2 This is why I have a poor opinion of cops in general.

What you’re referring to, ‘passing the trash,’ is not a Catholic-exclusive phenomenon. It happens everywhere, most prominently in schools and other places where adults have access to children, yet hardly ever hear a thing about it. As far as the leadership within the Church covering for their actions, it’s sad but hardly surprising. Even still, the media singled out the Catholic Church. How come they didn’t expose other religions, institutions and organizations for doing the same thing?

DCX2 says:

Re: Re: Re: This is why I have a poor opinion of cops in general.

The only way a few bad apples can spoil the bunch is if the bad apples are not removed. Had the Catholic leadership removed these apples from the barrel, the whole of Catholicism would not have been spoiled. Instead, they left them in the clergy, and now the entire institution is rotting.

The Real Michael says:

Re: Re: Re:2 This is why I have a poor opinion of cops in general.

Using that same reasoning, teachers, police, and every other institute is equally spoiled and rotting.

Sorry, not buying it.

The Catholic Church does tremendous good in the world, such as feeding the poor, caring for the sick, providing clothing and shelter, tending to the forgotten and the abandoned, giving hope to people who come from nothing. I’ve watched them pile up trucks with gifts for children who have been abandoned by the world.

That Anonymous Coward (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: This is why I have a poor opinion of cops in general.

That depends… how many of them have letters where they spelled out hiding the abuse rather than let the name of the church become tarnished?

Oooh less than 1%, how many years did the church keep facilitating them by moving them to new places and letting them have access to more victims?

Most child molesters identify as heterosexual even if they are abusing same sex targets.

I’d say nice try, but… yeah your not very good at this.

The Real Michael says:

Re: Re: Re:2 This is why I have a poor opinion of cops in general.

Actions speak louder than words. They may identify themselves one way yet their actions demonstrate their homosexual tendencies.

For decades, the Boy Scouts have had to deal with a rather tremendous amount of homosexuals sexually abusing the youths …and most of them got away with it.

Niall (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: This is why I have a poor opinion of cops in general.

Does it make a difference whether sexual abuse was homosexual in nature?

The problem with ‘proving’ anything was precisely the amount of covering up and even hostility to apparent victims that the church has shown. And this is an organisation that supposedly prides itself on its ‘moral’ stances on many issues. So it has to be seen to not only fair and open, but harder on its own that ‘stray’ – or lose what credibility it has – and in some catholic countries, even it has.

The Real Michael says:

Re: Re: Re:2 This is why I have a poor opinion of cops in general.

“Does it make a difference whether sexual abuse was homosexual in nature?”

No, not in and of itself, but the fact that there’s an extreme tendency towards reported same-sex abuses, that cannot be ignored.

There’s nothing wrong with the Church’s stance on morality; there is, however, something wrong when those who should know better and lead by example do the opposite.

art guerrilla (profile) says:

Re: This is why I have a poor opinion of cops in general.

exactly this…

IF there were a significant component of HONEST kops, then they would HAVE TO squeal on a LOT of their fellow kops, because they KNOW a LOT of them do illegal shit that is not particularly egregious (except for -you know- the disrespect for The Law, which is a life-sentence for us peons), and SOME of them do illegal shit which IS egregious…

but, they don’t squeal, do they ? ? ?
nope, they go along to get along, and almost NEVER squeal on kops they KNOW are corrupt…
what does that say about THE WHOLE SYSTEM…

art guerrilla
aka ann archy
eof

anonymous coward^2 says:

who watches the watchers....

Cops protecting their own is an old problem, and not at all constrained to child predation. Note all the headlines of police declaring they’ll not enforce gun laws…when police get to choose what and who to prosecute, things get bad fast. We’d all benefit from more sunshine and public scrutiny of our massive national bureaucracy, and a judicary that will not tolerate such abuse.

The Real Michael says:

Re: who watches the watchers....

Police aren’t supposed to enforce federal laws, particularly unconstitutional orders to violate people’s Second Amendment rights. I applaud the officers who stand by their oaths.

Unfortunately, in their overzealousness to protect their own, police often damage their public image in the process. It doesn’t mean that every police officer is bad, no, but this situation does create a bad environment wherein certain officers will feel that they can violate the law with impunity and their superiors will protect them.

DOlz says:

Re: Re: who watches the watchers....

“Police aren’t supposed to enforce federal laws, particularly unconstitutional orders to violate people’s Second Amendment rights. I applaud the officers who stand by their oaths.”

WRONG! The police are suppose to enforce all the laws, it is not their job to decide which ones are constitutional … that’s the courts job.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: who watches the watchers....

Except where the laws conflict. Then they have an obligation to serve their constituancy. For instance, federal drug laws conflicting with state laws enacted by the people of California, Colorado, & Washington. The people have spoke in those states and said that they want marijuana to be legal in those states. It is still against federal law but what happens in those states is local law enforcement then has an obligation to the people of the state first. So those states have basically told the federal government that if they want the federal statute enforced in the state, then the federal government will have to expend it’s resources to enforce it without the aid of local law enforcement.

Fuzzy says:

Re: who watches the watchers....

The officers saying they won’t enforce gun laws are referring to UNCONSTITUTIONAL gun laws.

Don’t compare crooked pedophile cop shielding to legitimate reasons to ignore “laws” that are in fact NOT laws because they are UNCONSTITUTIONAL.

Find a better comparison – this is a total logic fail.

Niall (profile) says:

Re: Re: And we will never know...

You have to be able to have some lower limit. If that limit is ‘flexible’ when the offender is of similar age, that’s one thing, but a grown adult will need lower limits which are hopefully based on some idea of what may emotionally or physically harm that child. The government doesn’t just pull that number out of nowhere – these ages are reasonably consistent over the western world (although some of the largest variations seem to be between US states). And this guy not only knows the law well, but is supposed to be enforcing it and ‘protecting’ people like this girl, so is extra-super hypocritical and despicable.

That One Guy (profile) says:

Double standards

Was what he said in the chat room enough to convict him of any crime?

No.

However, in any other instance, with someone who wasn’t a police officer making those kinds of statements to someone they believed to be an underage individual, such statements would certainly be enough to warrant the start, not ending, of an investigation.

I’ll give them this much, as least they’re not even trying to hide their hypocrisy, and their belief that they are above the law that they themselves are supposed to be enforcing.

Josef Anvil (profile) says:

WTF? Oh I get it. It was his screenname

The response that is really infuriating is as follows:

“We know that the termination was suggested by the Worcester Detective Bureau on the grounds that if Officer Shea had not at that point made ?any offers, or broken any law, and that he had not crossed the line, then we should just move on to other more promising subjects.?

That would mean that if the SAME thing happened with someone who wasn’t a cop, then the sting should move on to more promising subjects. Seems like the standard for “promising” is someone who logs on with the screen name ImaPedophilePleaseArrestme

Anonymous Coward says:

a) if this had been an ordinary member of the public, regardless of whether they were there on purpose or not, there would have been ‘overwhelming evidence’ so as to instigate a criminal case. strange how there isn’t because the person involved is a member of law enforcement, eh?
b) if this had happened to an ordinary worker, they would have been publicly embarrassed, and thrown out on the street with little chance of getting another job. as for compensation, they wouldn’t have even got leaving pay they were entitled to and owed, let alone get ‘early retirement and a pension’! same old story! when it’s someone that suits, they get all that is good. for everyone else, there’s shit street!!

Anonymous Coward says:

I want to know how these sting operations are even legal. It would be one thing if there were actually a minor involved in the whole operation, but as far as i understand it the whole premise is that someone online lied about there age and because someone else believed the lie, they are a criminal sex offender.

They may be Incredibly stupid for believing everything they see on the internet, but i don’t see how that gives anyone justification to have them arrested.

This whole thing just seems like a giant fishing expedition for the police to use to get into the news and say “Look, we’re saving the children!”

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Response to: Anonymous Coward on Jan 30th, 2013 @ 7:25am

Because giving someone the opportunity to commit a crime is not entrapment. That the officer on the other side of the keyboard is not really a child is the same as the officer not really being a hooker in prostitution stings, not really being a dealer in drug stings, that bait car is not really some dumbass that left their keys in the ignition, etc.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Response to: Anonymous Coward on Jan 30th, 2013 @ 7:25am

I’m always a little suspicious of these kind of operations, but I know what both of you are saying.

If the guy was just unlucky in that he happened to attract an agent instead of an actual child, then a victim was real but avoided. However, I’ve also seen such things happen where the person involved was just desperate or lonely and the possibility of sex/abuse only arose because the agent moved it in that direction. In those cases, there’s no victim because the possibility of the crime only arose after encouragement from the agent. You can argue that there would have been some eventually, but it’s also possible that you just tricked someone into doing something they wouldn’t normally do (not defending pedos here obviously, just voicing the possibility).

It’s like those cases where the FBI busts terrorist plots that they set up to begin with. If the people involved were predetermined to perform the crime but were caught because they spoke to the wrong people, fine. If not, there were not and never were any victims to save. It’s like if I try to sell you drugs and you happen to be a cop, fair play. If you come to me while I’m poor and desperate, goad me into agreeing to get some drugs for you and arrest me when I deliver what I promised, you haven’t put any drug dealers out of business.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

You’re thinking of it wrong. The officers pretend to be underage, and older men/women solicit them for sex, knowing(thinking) they are minors. Many will often even send nude pictures.

Soliciting sex with a minor, whether that person is ACTUALLY a minor or not, is illegal. So is sending sexually explicit material to a minor.

art guerrilla (profile) says:

Re: Re:

THANK YOU.

i was thinking i was the only numbskull on the planet who thought ALL these ‘entrapment’ scenarios are BULLSHIT…

they are CREATING crimes NOT COMMITTED to snare careless and/or innocent (in the sense of naive) people… THAT should be the ‘crime’, not responding to a weird (ON ALL LEVELS) fake ‘girl’ who doesn’t exist…

world gone crazy, is what i say…

art guerrilla
aka ann archy

eof

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

That really depends on how it’s done. I agree that there is a fine line (that is often crossed) between entrapment and giving someone the opportunity to commit a crime. This appears to be (the start of at least) the latter. If the police are simply pretending to be someone underage acting like a normal teenager waiting for someone to come along and suggest something inappropriate to them (which this appears to be at least from the information provided) that is different than pretending to be a teenager that is LOOKING to hook up with someone older for an inappropriate relationship by actually suggesting it to the person to induce them to commit a crime. That would be entrapment.

DCX2 says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

Actually entrapment is even harder. An undercover can just go looking to hook up with someone older. In order to be entrapment, an agent of the police must induce someone into behavior they would otherwise not do.

So, for instance, the undercover asks the guy “hey older man, wanna show me the ropes?” If he says yes, it’s not entrapyment. If he says no, the undercover could say “if you don’t show me the ropes I’m going to put your name and address on the Internet”. Now, if the target says yes, he has an entrapment claim, because an agent of the police induced him into performing an illegal act that he would not have otherwise performed.

Anonymous Coward says:

And here’s another on the list of law enforcement stings gone wrong: http://www.jsonline.com/watchdog/watchdogreports/atfs-milwaukee-sting-operation-marred-by-mistakes-failures-mu8akpj-188952581.html?abc=Ct5vpWpS (Just to keep with another TD theme, the squad even, apparently, “borrowed” to use as their logo a design/logo from a blockbuster-type movie. Wonder if they’ll get hit with a copyright violation?)

MD says:

Huh?

you realize that your pension and retirement benefits are yours? You earned them by being employed for X years. they belong to you already. Whether you now face criminal charges, or escaped them by the skin of your teeth – you still own the 30 years of pension benefit you worked for, just like you own your car, your house and your widescreen TV. (And your PC, if it is not seized as evidence in an ongoing investigation). Joe Schmoe does not automatically become penniless when suspected of luring, neither do cops.

What if instead of a defined benefit plan, he had an IRA that contained money contributed by him and his employer over the last 30 years – should that be seized automatically because he was a suspect?

hey, if you are fired for cause (i.e.theft, insubordination, fighting, etc.) your employer still has to pay your accrued vacation time.

So to quote the appropriate quote “enough of the phony outrage”.

If the investigation suddenly stopped cold, that’s a question for the investigators to answer; I seriously doubt one cop on a municipal force has that pull. What did they think they would find when they were talking to “latenightcop”?

His department did what you expected them to do – they begain investigating, and if he had not resigned he would have been fired (violating departmental behaviour guidelines). Even fired, he would still get his pension.

We don’t take everything a person has the moment they are suspect. Their lawyer does that over the next year or 3.

DCX2 says:

Re: Huh?

I agree that you shouldn’t just take the pension from someone suspected of a crime. The problem is that once this guy was suspected, the investigation was canned. The investigation should have been carried out to fruition and, if he was found guilty, his pension should have been revoked.

And there is plenty of precedent for revoking pensions. http://blogs.app.com/politicspatrol/2012/02/13/cop-loses-pension-over-web-solicitations/

Police and Firemen?s Retirement System?s Board of Trustees ruled a 26-year police officer who used the Internet to solicit sex from girls as young as 11 does not deserve a pension

http://www.philly.com/philly/blogs/dncrime/Should_criminal_cops_lose_their_pension_.html

Chapter 22-1300 of the city code states that a city employee could lose retirement benefits only if he or she pleads or is found guilty of perjury; accepting or offering a bribe; engaging in graft or corruption; theft, embezzlement or willful misapplication of city funds; malfeasance in office or engaging in conspiracy to commit any of the above.

That Anonymous Coward (profile) says:

And they wonder why the public perception is not good towards cops.
Well only that 1 guy did wrong… except every single one of you who was aware of the incident after the fact and said nothing to “encouraged” others to stay silent or else are just a guilty.
But we are a brotherhood we have to protect our own… isn’t that the same justification used by the mob, gangs, and cartels?
If we don’t have each others backs who will?… your allowing someone who rapes, cheats, steals, molests (the list of these cases does go on for a while) to watch your back… are you fucking stupid?
They would never do it to us… ya know people used to say that about the government and terrorism, and we are less safe and more spied on than ever before.

I don’t have the answer how to fix this, I doubt there is a magic wand, but to pretend we have to accept the enforcers of the law violating them as the price of safety is stupid. We deserve better, we need to demand it, and stop letting the fearmongering win.

Niall (profile) says:

Re: Big deal

That’s not the story, especially not if it had been a consenting adult. We don’t know for sure if this guy would have even taken it any further, given the chance. The problem here specifically is the pulling of the investigation and effectivelly allowing him to get off with it scot-free, especially when (non-police/politicans/rich people) get massively over-prosecuted for nothing, or things that should be civil matters.

Al Czervik says:

Cop

I am in no way sticking up for the officer in question. However, the author seemed to miss the obvious. While I’m sure Chief Gemme and a majority of the citizens in Worcester would like to see this guy stripped of his pension, there is no way that can happen. This is true no matter what anyone wants. Pensions are governed by laws, not opinions. The law here says that unless the person was CONVICTED of a crime RELATED TO HIS EMPLOYMENT, he’s entitled to his pension. We can argue all day long whether or not the law is likeable; the fact remains that if the city tries to deny him his pension, a quick court action will restore it. And, probably lead to amounts assessed against the city and it’s attorney for filing a frivolous case.

Even if you believe that the cops stopped the chat so that this guy wouldn’t cross the legal line, it doesn’t matter. He didn’t break the law; he gets his pension.

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