Mayor suspends LMPD Explorer program, wants lawsuit opened

Published: Mar. 13, 2017 at 7:03 PM EDT|Updated: Mar. 13, 2017 at 7:58 PM EDT
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Former LMPD Officer Kenneth Betts (Source: WAVE 3 News source)
Former LMPD Officer Kenneth Betts (Source: WAVE 3 News source)
Officer Brandon Wood (Source: LMPD)
Officer Brandon Wood (Source: LMPD)

LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) - Mayor Greg Fischer is suspending the Louisville Metro Police Youth Explorer program while allegations of sexual abuse within the program are addressed in court.

Fischer is also asking that a lawsuit filed by a man claiming he was sexually abused as a teenager in the Explorer program be unsealed.

"The allegations represent an appalling betrayal of trust and abuse of power, and threaten a program that has helped so many young men and women interested in becoming police officers and law enforcement leaders," Mayor Fischer said. "To restore the public's trust in this program, the proceedings must be as open as the courts will allow."

A former LMPD Youth Explorer spoke to WAVE 3 News about his time in the now-infamous program.

"I was very creeped out sometimes," Tyler Druin, who was a youth explorer at the same time as Kenneth Betts and Brandon Wood, said. Betts and Wood are accused of sexually assaulting a teenager in that program after they had become police officers.

Druin talked exclusively with WAVE 3 News about his time serving as a teenage explorer cadet alongside Betts and Wood, years before the alleged sexual assaults.

The two men are now named in a sealed lawsuit filed in Jefferson County Court last week, according to attorney David Yates. That lawsuit also names the commander of the program, then-Lieutenant Curtis Flaherty, the police department, and the city.

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Betts and Wood are accused of sexually abusing a teenager in the LMPD Youth Explorer Program while they were working as officer advisers to the Explorers.

"I think what is so awful about this, is they were his hero's," Yates, Metro Council President and attorney for the alleged victim, said. "He just wanted to be a police officer, and they took advantage of that trust."

Yates is also alleging a cover up by Flaherty. At the time, Flaherty not only ran the Explorer program, he was also head of the department's Public Integrity Unit, which is responsible for investigating complaints against police officers.

"And even after the higher-ups in authority in LMPD knew about the abuse, no one helped this young man who was hurting, who needed help," Yates said. "That's unacceptable."

Betts and Wood met while they were teenagers, in the Explorer program, under Flaherty. Druin, who was also a youth explorer at that time, claimed that Flaherty favored the two friends over other explorers.

"I do know that their relationship with, at the time Lieutenant Flaherty, was, they were very close," Druin said.

WAVE 3 News reached out to the police department to get a response from Flaherty, but LMPD said it wouldn't comment on pending litigation.

Druin eventually left the program, but Betts and Woods completed it and went on to be police officers and advisers working closely with the teens in the Explorer program.

Their accuser, now 22 years old, claims the men had sex with him while he was under age 18 and while they were in a position of authority, which Yates said constitutes 3rd degree statutory rape.

As WAVE 3 News first reported last year, Wood was removed from the Explorers and put on desk duty in October 2016 when the allegations came to light.

Betts resigned from LMPD in 2013, a year after being accused of inappropriate behavior with another member of the explorer program.

WATCH: Eric Flack's report

Attorneys for Betts and Wood said they had no comment on the lawsuit, although Wood's attorney said his client maintains his innocence of all criminal wrongdoing.

Wood is still with the department while the internal investigation continues. Flaherty, now promoted to major, is no longer heading the unit that's doing the investigation.

Jefferson County Attorney Mike O'Connell said he has concerns about a possible conflict of interest where Yates, an elected official, is suing the government which he serves. Yates said he received an opinion from the Kentucky Bar Association saying there was no conflict, before taking the case.

The Boy Scouts, a partner in the LMPD Explorer Program, said on Monday it supports the Mayor's decision to temporarily suspend program.

Copyright 2017 WAVE 3 News. All rights reserved.