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Misconduct Alleged in Police Scout Program

LAPD: Most of the 95 complaints found by internal investigation involve one officer, who is accused of having sex with a teenage girl Explorer.

April 08, 1998|MATT LAIT | TIMES STAFF WRITER

A Los Angeles police investigation into its Explorer Scout youth program has uncovered 95 allegations of officer misconduct, including an accusation that one officer had sex with a teenage female scout, officials said Tuesday.

The internal LAPD investigation began last July, when a scout's mother accused Officer John M. Rosales of having sex with an underage girl Explorer. Rosales, 33, has been on paid administrative leave since the allegations surfaced.

On Tuesday, Chief Bernard C. Parks told the Los Angeles Police Commission that the 95 allegations involve eight LAPD officers. Three female scouts, all part of the Explorer program in the LAPD's Northeast Division, were identified as alleged victims.

LAPD officials said Rosales is the primary suspect and the target of about 80 of the misconduct allegations. In addition to allegedly having sexual relations with one youth, the eight-year veteran also is accused of improperly touching, hugging and harassing the two other female scouts.

The other seven officers face misconduct allegations of failing to provide adequate supervision of the Explorer Scout program and other unidentified administrative breaches.

Parks said the findings of the ongoing investigation have been submitted to the district attorney's office. Department sources said a decision on whether to file criminal charges against Rosales centers on whether the scout was 17 or 18 at the time he allegedly had sex with her. If she was 17, the officer could face charges of statutory rape.

Rosales could not be reached for comment. His attorney, Darryl Mounger, said he was "amazed by all the allegations." He declined to discuss the case, other than to say that it is his understanding that the scout was 18 at the time of any alleged relationship, which he refused to confirm or deny.

The allegation of sexual misconduct is not the first to tarnish the LAPD's Explorer Scout program. In 1976, five officers from the Hollywood Division were criminally charged with having unlawful sexual intercourse with teenage girls in the scouting program. The charges ultimately were dropped, in part because key witnesses refused to testify.

Moreover, the LAPD is not the only agency whose officers are alleged to have become sexually involved with young scouts. Officers in Simi Valley, Irvine, Long Beach and other police agencies have faced similar charges of improper sexual relations with scouting youths.

"This doesn't happen a lot, but occasionally there are going to be bad apples," said Joey Robinson, spokesman for the Los Angeles Area Council of the Boy Scouts of America, with which the Explorer Scout program is affiliated.

Parks disclosed the status of the investigation after the mother of two female scouts complained to the Police Commission that an adult volunteer still working with the scouting program was harassing some of the youths.

Roberta Rodriguez, who lodged the initial complaint with the department, said Tuesday that some of the scouts are being "intimidated" by the volunteer and pressured not to come forward with information.

According to Rodriguez, the officers' misconduct includes failure to adequately chaperon scouts at meetings and field trips. On some field trips, she said, scouts were allowed to drink alcohol.

"The safety of the children was at risk," Rodriguez said. "Some parents and scouts have been afraid to come forward."

Police Commission President Edith Perez said the panel was taking the allegations of misconduct seriously and asked the chief to take an "extra special look at this program."

"We've spent a fair bit of time reviewing the allegations," said Commissioner Dean Hansell. "The Explorer Scout program is an important program. To the extent that there were transgressions, we will have the D.A. take a look at them."

Police officials declined to fully elaborate on the specific misconduct allegations, citing the ongoing personnel investigation.

"When this was brought to our attention, the department took immediate and decisive action," said Cmdr. Dave Kalish, the chief's spokesman. "Internal affairs is conducting thorough criminal and internal investigations."

According to Rodriguez, Rosales allegedly had sex with at least one female scout in the police station and during Explorer camping trips.

Rodriguez said some of the alleged misbehavior occurred as far back as 1993 and continued until last summer.

"I can't complain loudly enough or to enough ears," said Rodriguez, who was fighting back tears after the Police Commission meeting.

Capt. Louis H. Gray, who is in charge of the Northeast Division, said that since the investigation was launched, the program has expanded and is "fully functional. . . . The only person that seems to have any problem with the program is Roberta."

After the allegations surfaced last summer, LAPD officials offered psychological counseling to the youths involved in the scouting program.

Lt. Anthony Alba, another LAPD spokesman, said the problem was limited to the Northeast Division and did not involve any other programs within the department's other 17 divisions.

"We don't want this to poison the program because it is such a darn positive one," Alba said.

Rodriguez agreed, saying "positive efforts can correct this [problem]. I can't tell you how devastated I would be, and the children would be, if they scrapped this."

The Explorer Scout program has been affiliated with the LAPD for 36 years. The department's 400-member scouting program, which is open to both boys and girls from 14 to 20, is one of the largest sponsored by an American law enforcement agency. As scouts, the youths perform community service and get experience in police activities.

According to the Boy Scouts of America, almost one-third of those in law enforcement and ancillary professions have been involved in a Law Enforcement Explorer Scouts program.

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