An Arlington rookie police officer was arrested last week on charges of soliciting a minor over the Internet, as part of a regional online sting operation, police officials said.
Patrick Sherman, 26, has been charged with one count of using a communications system to facilitate offenses involving children, a felony that carries a maximum penalty of five years in prison.
Sherman was arrested at his Arlington home on Dec. 2 by Alexandria police officers and is currently released on bond. He has been suspended without pay pending an internal investigation, said police spokesman Matt Martin.
“It doesn't matter who you are — doctor, lawyer or cop,” Martin said. “When we find out you are preying on young people online we will go after you.”
Sherman graduated from the county’s police training academy last June and had been under the supervision of a training officer ever since. Martin said there was no evidence that any of Sherman’s illegal online activities occurred while he was on duty and said he had not received reports of suspicious behavior by Sherman. Calls to Sherman were not returned before the Arlington Connection went to press.
The arrest was a result of the Northern Virginia-D.C. Internet Crimes Against Children task force’s investigation into Sherman’s online activities. He was arrested by the Alexandria Police Department because one of their officers was in charge of the investigation, Martin said.
From late October through early November the task force ran a sting operation to apprehend online sexual predators. Investigators created fictitious profiles and visited teen chat rooms, where they were approached by adults.
“We had been getting a lot of citizen complaints of this type of illegal activity going on,” said Sgt. Terry Licklider, spokesman for the Virginia State Police.
Investigators opened 36 cases against individuals in Northern Virginia who solicited sex and engaged in other illegal activities in the chat rooms, Licklider said. The task force, which was made up of officers from 20 different local, state and federal agencies, has made a total of 11 arrests to date, including Sherman. The task force was established with the aid of a $300,000 federal grant and has been operating since January.
According to the Virginia State Police, some of the suspects traveled to prearranged locations to meet the “teenagers” and were then apprehended. Others, like Sherman, were taken into custody at their homes. The task force will continue similar sting operations in the future, Licklider said.
Martin said he was unaware of any Arlington police officer being arrested for a similar crime in the past. He defended the department’s recruiting program and said it would continue to thoroughly vet applicants.
“We have a very good recruiting and selection process and screen individuals extensively,” Martin said. “The reality of it is when you have several hundred people working for you, there is a possibility that you might get someone who will do some sort of criminal behavior.”