Hospital chief 'disappointed' LMPD officer visited sick kids amid sexual misconduct probe

Hospital chief 'disappointed' LMPD officer visited sick kids amid sexual misconduct probe
Kenneth Betts during a 2013 visit to Norton Children's Hospital with other LMPD officers (Source: WAVE 3 News archives)
Betts stands to the immediate right of Santa in this 2013 photo. (Source: WAVE 3 News archives)
Betts stands to the immediate right of Santa in this 2013 photo. (Source: WAVE 3 News archives)

LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) - While facing an internal Louisville Metro Police Department investigation for allegedly sending sexually explicit text messages to a 16-year-old girl, former LMPD officer Kenneth Betts was allowed to visit and have contact with children at a Louisville hospital.

That visit was part of LMPD's Christmas Eve gift delivery to children at what is now known as Norton Children's Hospital in 2013. And the head of the hospital is not happy about it.

"Norton Children's Hospital was not made aware of any information in 2013 indicating Officer Betts was under investigation, and is disappointed to learn that a person who participated in a past group visit is part of an ongoing investigation into the alleged abuse of children," Thomas Kmetz, president of the Norton Children's Hospital said. "Any instance of child abuse or sexual misconduct is intolerable and unacceptable."

Betts eventually resigned from LMPD, and the internal investigation into the allegations made by the teenage member of LMPD's Youth Explorer Program was closed. Betts and current LMPD officer Brandon Wood are now the focus of a second LMPD investigation into allegations they sexually abused teenage Explorers while working as office advisers in the program. In March, a civil lawsuit was filed against Betts, Woods and LMPD, which is accused of failing to prevent the sexual abuse despite red flags.

In an interview with WAVE 3 News during his 2013 Children's Hospital visit, Betts said he empathized with the sick children because he recently had recovered from cancer himself. He also said he was excited about the opportunity to give to the children because it helped them see police officers in a positive light.

"During the holidays it's not necessarily the gifts you're getting or different material things, but it's actually the people you're surrounded by and all the kiddos moving into their rooms," Betts told WAVE 3 News during that 2013 gift delivery. "Sometimes people see police officers in a negative light because sometimes we have to make enforcement actions, but it's good for them to see police officers helping them out."

But Kmetz said Betts should never have been allowed by LMPD to be part of the group that delivered gifts to the sick children. Kmetz said the hospital vets the groups visiting its units, but it doesn't vet the individuals.

"A committee made up of representatives from the hospital, child life services, volunteer services, and others meets weekly to process and vet each group to ensure those granted access to the hospital meet Norton Healthcare's values, safety, and service standards," Kmetz said. "Groups who are given approval to visit are escorted at all times by an employee or hospital volunteer. No member of a visiting group is ever alone with children at any time."

Mayor Greg Fischer has suspended the Explorer Program until the investigation, now being conducted by a special prosecutor, is complete.

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