Council calls for independent investigation of LMPD's troubled Explorer program

Council calls for independent investigation of LMPD’s troubled Explorer program 
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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WHAS11) -- Members of the Louisville Metro Council are calling on an independent law enforcement agency to investigate the allegations of sex abuse in LMPD’s Youth Explorer Program, a program for kids who want to learn more about policing.

A group of councilmembers made the announcement Thursday evening during a news conference at City Hall. Councilman David James said he had been in touch with the FBI and had requested the agency to investigate the LMPD’s handling of the matter. 

James, a former police officer, said he thought LMPD’s Professional Standards Unit and Public Integrity Unit typically did a good job investigating matters within the department but called this case “unique,” noting that the severity of the allegations, people involved, and power of those involved have created a case that would be better investigated by an independent agency.

“The deep end of the pool is criminality. The shallow end is they screwed up. But in either case you don’t want the people who just screwed up to be investigating themselves,” said Councilman James Peden. 

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The allegations stem from a sealed lawsuit, filed last week, by attorney and Metro Council President David Yates. 

Yates represents the plaintiff, who claims he was sexually abused by Officers Brandon Wood and Kenneth Betts. The alleged abuse happened between 2011 and 2013, while the plaintiff was in the Explorer program.

“We’re all very concerned about this,” said Councilwoman Julie Denton. “These are serious, serious allegations and we want to make sure we know the answer as to what happened, who knew about it, and what was done.”                                                                                                          

Officer Wood was moved to administrative assignment in October. Records show the department launched an investigation in 2013 into allegations that Officer Betts had “improper contact” with a girl in the Explorer program, but the investigation was closed shortly after Betts submitted his resignation.  

James and Peden both said they were approached by current, concerned LMPD officers alleging a possible cover-up, and in some cases, telling the two councilmembers “what rocks to turn over.”

The two men suggested there could be more victims.

Mayor Greg Fischer suspended the program Monday in response to the claims outlined in the lawsuit. He has asked for the lawsuit to be unsealed and promised a thorough investigation.  

“There’s not gonna be any stone left unturned into this investigation of the Explorers Program,” Fisher told reporters Thursday morning. “For me it’s all about transparency and accountability so I’m looking at all kinds of options here.”