Michael Harding, 27, an officer with Port St. Lucie Police in Florida, has been arrested on allegations of sending and receiving child pornography.
The married father of three allegedly uploaded explicit images to a chatroom on kick messenger of boys and girls performing sexual acts. Harding is accused of doing this while on duty on the night shift road patrol beginning on July 23, according to New York Daily News.
An investigator with the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) discovered posts being made under the username “destheabovee." The name was later traced to Harding’s cell phone by location tracking technology.
Officials from DHS searched Harding’s home and found a thumb drive concealed in a gun case, which was in a closet in Harding’s bedroom. The drive contained “hundreds of images and videos of children engaged in sexually explicit conduct,” according to charge documents reported by NBC News.
“Mr. Harding had no disciplinary action at the department. He had several commendations. If these allegations are true, it’s very disturbing because the public puts a tremendous amount of trust in its officers,” John Bolduc, Port St. Lucie Police Chief, said, according to WPBF.
“He did very well on all the different things we do in the hiring process — psychological evaluations, polygraphs — all that checked out fine,” Bolduc added, NBC News reported.
Port St. Lucie Police placed Harding on administrative leave without pay pending the result of the investigation. Bolduc added they were collaborating fully with the investigation.
No bond was set for Harding, since the presiding judge ruled that he represented a danger to the community.
Harding was arrested on Sept. 22 and was appointed a public defender the next day. His next court appearance is set for Sept. 30.
If found guilty, Harding faces at least five years behind bars with the possibility of the sentence rising to 20 years.
Harding was named Officer of the Year in 2011 while he worked for the Fort Pierce Police Department. He quit his Force Pierce position to work for Port St. Lucie in 2012.