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Police abused teen scouts, study says

By Associated Press
© St. Petersburg Times
published June 25, 2003

At least a dozen teenagers assigned to work with police departments as part of the Boy Scouts' Law Enforcement Explorers program have allegedly been sexually abused by officers during the past year. In the past five years, such molestations number at least 25, according to criminologists' research released today.

Sponsors have promised reforms to the program, which attracts tens of thousands of teens annually.

Among recent cases:

- The East Ridge, Tenn., Police Department suspended its Explorer program after Officer Keith Maynard, 31, was charged with two counts of statutory rape and two counts of aggravated child molestation, accused of having sex with a 15-year-old girl in the program. He is awaiting trial.

- In Haltom City, Texas, former police Officer John Ross Ewing, 28, was indicted by a grand jury in March on charges that he sexually assaulted two male Explorer scouts, ages 15 and 16, at his apartment.

- In San Bernardino, Calif., Freddie Lee Johnson, 34, pleaded guilty in April to having sex with a 16-year-old girl on a scout-related camping trip. According to court records, the girl woke up in her tent and found the officer on top of her. He was sentenced to 60 weekends in jail.

Locally, several Largo Police Department officers were accused several years ago of having had sexual relations with Explorers. One officer admitted having sex with a 17-year-old female Explorer in 1990, but the statute of limitations for unlawful sexual activity with a minor expired three years after the alleged act. The officer later resigned.

Law Enforcement Explorers is a co-ed program affiliated with the Boy Scouts of America. In 2002, about 43,000 Explorers were assigned to police and sheriff's departments around the United States.

The extent of the abuse is detailed in research that will be released Wednesday by University of Nebraska criminal justice professor Samuel Walker and his colleague Dawn Irlbeck, who study police sexual abuse of women.

Almost half of the reported teenage victims of police sexual abuse in the past decade were enrolled in police Explorer programs, they found, with the rest abused during arrests, traffic stops and in other situations.

"When you have repeated incidents across the country, a new one every month, that's a real problem," Walker said.

Under the Explorer program's own guidelines, unsupervised, one-on-one contact between Explorers and officers is banned, with one exception - during certified law enforcement ride-alongs. But this is when many of the reported cases of abuse have taken place, the research found.

"I think it's a program that allows inappropriate contact between the officers and the kids without the proper supervision," said lawyer Todd Walburg, who represents a former Explorer alleging he was sexually abused.

But others emphasize the benefits of the program.

Sgt. Rick Martinez of the Anaheim, Calif., police said he was inspired by his experiences as an Explorer 30 years ago to join the force.

Abuse is "a rare and unfortunate instance," he said. "But keep in mind there are thousands of kids who go through this program without abuse, exposing them to career options and teaching them to help their communities."

Even so, Martinez is all too aware that problems can happen.

He resumed his position as the program's adviser last year after the former leader, 31-year-old Officer Jason David Rosewarne, was charged with having sex with a 17-year-old female Explorer.

- Information from Times files was used in this report.

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