The Boy Scouts' Police Problem

Dozens of teenage Explorers have been sexually abused by cops. Should Scouts share the blame?

The report that grew out of his online meanderings, "Police Sexual Abuse of Teenage Girls," co-authored by graduate student Dawn Irlbeck, uncovered a "disturbing pattern" of cops sexually exploiting female (and, to a lesser degree, male) Explorers.

Among the cases Walker highlighted was one from 1998 in Largo, Florida, in which an officer accused of having sex with a 16-year-old girl killed himself. "I'm not the only person who's having sex with a minor at the Police Department," the officer wrote in his suicide note. "They really need to tighten up the rules with those Explorers."

Largo's police chief initially dismissed claims of a wider scandal as groundless. But an outside investigator subsequently found that at least 11 Largo cops had had sex with Explorers, dating back to the late 1980s.

Former Los Angeles Police Department Chief Daryl Gates investigated the first Explorer case in 1976. Said Gates of the alleged "orgies" between cops and underage girls: "There was no rape, no seduction. There was a lot of agreement."
Former Los Angeles Police Department Chief Daryl Gates investigated the first Explorer case in 1976. Said Gates of the alleged "orgies" between cops and underage girls: "There was no rape, no seduction. There was a lot of agreement."

The following year, in Eureka, Missouri, Walker reported, an internal investigation was launched into two officers accused of having sex with a 16-year-old female Explorer whom they'd taken on ride-alongs. The investigating officer, evidently intent on re-enacting the crime, then took the girl on a ride-along of his own, during which he too had sex with her.

And in a case that came to light the year of Walker's report, David Kalish, who had risen to the rank of deputy chief of the LAPD, was accused of molesting at least six boys he'd supervised when they were LAPD Explorers in the 1970s. One accuser said Kalish had forced him to perform oral sex in his squad car while the two were in uniform.

In all, Walker listed 32 cases of police officers sexually exploiting Explorers, many involving multiple officers, multiple Explorers, or both. Many more cases had surely eluded his radar, he said, either because they were never reported, were hushed up, or simply didn't appear in his online searches.

After the Associated Press reported his findings, Walker used the ensuing attention to take police departments to task. Appearing on CNN in June 2003, he told a righteously outraged Bill Hemmer, "There appears to be a real pattern of abuse across the country. What I think it indicates is a failure of police departments to supervise these programs...and really investigate allegations of misconduct."

That evening, Anderson Cooper interviewed a 16-year-old former Explorer from San Diego who'd been seduced by an officer she'd gone with on frequent ride-alongs. "I don't want to hear this ever happening again," "Jane" told Cooper, her face blurred to conceal her identity. "This wouldn't have happened if they would have done their jobs."

Spared from the public shaming was the organization charged with overseeing the program. In 1991, under fire for its long-standing policy of not allowing atheists, homosexuals, or girls among its ranks, the Boy Scouts spun off the Explorer program into a more-inclusive subsidiary it named Learning for Life. Scouting officials described the move as the natural evolution of a fast-growing segment of its organization that had aims separate from the core mission of instilling traditional values in American boys. Critics smelled a different plot: at once inoculating a popular program from the legal challenges besetting the Boy Scouts while providing political cover for the organization as a whole.

Whatever the motivations, it would take Learning for Life years to begin imposing Explorer safety standards on police departments. The organization's "Safety First" policy, with a blanket ban on fraternization between cops and Explorers and limits placed on ride-alongs, first appeared on Learning for Life's website in 2002. (Thornton says Learning for Life barred underage Explorers from going on overnight ride-alongs starting in the mid-1990s, declining to specify further. She declined to say whether its no-fraternization rule went into effect before 2002.) Learning for Life had all but ripped the weathered page from the Long Beach PD's manual—the same rules that, years earlier, Boy Scout official Hollis Spindle had dismissed as unrealistic.

Summoning the courage to enforce the new rules would prove to be another matter.


AS WALKER BROADCAST HIS WARNING to the public, a 27-year-old cop two months into his career at the Bremerton Police Department was getting to know a shy, immature 19-year-old volunteering there as an Explorer. Over the following months, in the hours spent on ride-alongs in his squad car, Officer Kelly Meade and "Bethany" progressed in stages from flirty conversation to a stolen kiss to heavy petting. Eventually, they started having sex.

In February 2004, their passionate emails intercepted, they came clean to department investigators about their liaison. Bremerton's then-police chief, Robert Forbes, in a written reprimand, told Meade that though Bethany was of age, the officer had brought shame upon himself, the department, and the Explorer program by sleeping with her. "You were in a position of power and apparent, if not actual, authority," Chief Forbes wrote, sparks all but flying from his keyboard. Bethany, he added, "continued to refer to you by your title as an officer, not by your first name."

Forbes handed down a 10-day suspension without pay. Meade, claiming ignorance of the no-fraternization policy, filed an appeal. Bremerton's rule prohibiting outside relationships between cops and Explorers had been created just as Meade and Bethany were getting acquainted—after the supervisor in charge of the Explorers, having heard about Walker's report, decided to update the Explorer manual. But the same language never made it into the department's official rule book.

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Sports betting had been an age-old tradition found in every society. If you glance back into the history you will find that gamblers use to bet their money on just about anything unpredictable like games, animal racing or combats. The trend continues even today and betting is an interesting indulgence for sports fans and bookies all over the world. Sports betting in case popular games like soccer or baseball is carried out only during their seasons.

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An Eagle Scout

As someone with a strong background in the Scouting program, I know child abuse is a extremely serious matter in the organization. Boy Scouts, and I am assuming Explorer posts subsequently, are required to adhere to the "Two Deep" leadership policy. Essentially, it is means of ensuring there is NEVER one on one contact between an adult leader and a youth participant. If this officer was having this girl participate in ride-alongs without a secondary supervisor, it is violation of basic Scouting regulations.

Also... cops should know not to bang kids. Have fun in prison.


Police work attracts a certain personality type. Especially as the police are militarized, the personality type becomes more extreme. As more and more police departments hire combat veterans with no training whatsoever, the characteristics of predatory violence with a sexual component become more and more engrained in the police.

It isn't that there's a "lack of accountability." It's encouraged behavior. As soldiers, with the presumption of civilian life and responsibility, morph into warriors, tasked only to kill and despoil; so the paramilitary police are responsible only to utilize violence on command. Any "excesses" are excused, due to "the pressures of the job." Predatory sexual violence against women and children is all in a day's work.

You can't find troopers who will assault civilians on command without question, who don't also assault the vulnerable at other times in other ways, as well. It's all part of the bargain the Powers That Be have made.

Bottom line; keep your kids away from the cops. Keep your wife away from the cops. Solve your own problems as much as you can, by yourself, among your neighbors. That's the best way to deal with street gangs, the mob, or if your town were occupied by a foreign army. Increasingly, there's no difference.


The local department, as with any Scouting unit, selects and approves the leadership. Total local control. If you can't trust your police department to select leaders with high morals, who can you trust? Penn State is criticized for not reporting sexual abuse incidents to the police. In this case, not only were they reported to the police, the criminal was a police officer. If local leadership fails, how is Learning for Life responsible, as they have no authority over the individuals. Only the police department has authority to act.


Seriously it is encouraged??!! First of all Im speaking on behalf of personal knowledge in at least one of these stories that was listed and let me tell you and it even stated that some of these so called "victims" were over the age of 18! Now I dont disagree the officers actions were still highly inappropriate in many ways and there definitely should be accountability and consequences for them but dont think for one minute that all these girls were innocent curious little officers in training only interested in "Police work". That was not the case in all these cases. One girl in particular only joined to get close to the officers! Just like girls who like military uniformed men, this young lady had a hard on for police officers in uniform and she was over 18 btw! So also with her she also knew who was married and didnt care! It didnt stop her from pressuring to ride along with them and try to use her sexuality to seduce them which she did! She found officers that were vulnerable and ended in victim to her pursuits. The timeline was months, she carefully prepared and patiently waited and slept with whomever would fall for it! It didnt matter who! She is an attention whore! So next time dont quickly assume just the way the news article is trying to make it sound.. But again like I said I can only speak of my intel knowledge of one case, the others who knew! But I guarantee the one case, the girl wasnt some innocent girl pressured to have sex with this big ol' bad cop only trying to victimize young innocent girls! Not in this case! I am not dismissing the officers actions though, they were wrong and yes there should be accountability and consequences and there was and still is everytime the news has to print something about it!