DARE Officer in Connecticut Fired for Texting 11-Year-Old Girl, Several Others
Police criminal investigation found no criminal wrongdoing, but the Department of Children & Families is still investigation
Police officers can be brought into schools to replace teachers in disciplinary actions, from violently break up water balloon fights to interrogating third graders. They can be there undercover, sometimes to try to push drugs, or they can be there because of the long-standing but ineffective anti-drug education program DARE. And in Avon, Connecticut, one DARE officer has been fired for his off- and after-hours contact with children. The local Patch reports:
Police officials objected to the tone and frequently late hours of… [the now former Avon police officer Todd Akerley] texting and online interactions with at least eight current or former D.A.R.E. students investigators interviewed, ages 11 to 14, including the girl from the complaint, and "at least 80 other pre or early teens on Instagram."
Many of the conversations, mostly with females, happened "during the late evening hours, some past midnight," police said.
Investigations into his actions began when on May 23 when a doctor at Connecticut Children's Medical Center made an urgent phone call to Avon Police Chief Mark Rinaldo. The woman reported "disturbing text messages with sexual content" that Akerley allegedly sent to an Avon student in the D.A.R.E. program.
As someone serving on the Greater Hartford Multidisciplinary Child Abuse Team, she was required to report the incident to DCF [Department of Children and Families]. Rinaldo previously told the Hartford Courant that the department is awaiting the findings of a DCF investigation.
Despite the ongoing DCF investigation, a criminal investigation by police found no actual wrongdoing by the officer. "[T]here was and never will be a time when I would go over and actually do what I had written via text," Akerley wrote in his defense in a memo to his superiors. At least one parent commended Akerley's commitment according to the internal affairs report. If it saved "even one kid, then he felt that it was a useful tool," the parent was quoted as saying. The department apparently released nearly 1,200 pages of internal affairs reports on Akerley to the media.
More Reason on police in schools here.
Akerley e-mailed Reason today, April 14, 2014:
To Whom It May Concern,
I am writing this letter asking for your consideration in removing "DARE officer in Connecticut fired for texting 11-year old girl, several others", posted on October 17, 2013 at 1:08 PM from your site and from any search engine.
In October of 2013, my Department began termination proceedings against me, not because I had done anything criminally or sexually wrong, but because it allegedly violated Town policy. As a result of the Department's decision to begin termination proceedings, I resigned from the department. The current availability of this article on the website, however, continues to cause damage to my reputation. I am a father who is trying to provide for his family and move on from this unfortunate situation. With the continued availability of this article effects my ability to obtain a job. It is for this reason that I respectfully request that your website remove this article from posting and search engines.
Thank you for your consideration,