A police officer once named ‘Officer of the Year’ for Port St. Lucie Police Department has been arrested for allegedly distributing child pornography.
Michael Harding is facing two charges of child pornography after an uncover agent from the Department of Homeland Security discovered Officer Harding’s secret while investigating a chat room called “#toddlerf**k”. Harding supposedly chatted under the name “desthfromabovee”
While on active duty, Harding allegedly used the KiK instant messaging service to post images and videos of preteen and preschool aged victims. Further probes discovered his department issued laptop had been used to upload photos and videos of pornographic content involving children.
Harding is married with three children. Nonetheless, his home computer- which was searched as part of the ongoing investigation- was filthy with hundreds of images and videos of exploited children.
“These charges are very serious and I think it goes without saying that this type of behavior will not and is not tolerated in this department,” said Port St. Lucie Police Chief John Bolduc.
The Department says that Harding had always performed well on the psychological evaluations required for police officers. He also did while on annual evaluations. In 2011, he was awarded the honor of “Officer of the Year”. A year earlier, he had been commended for “Exceptional Police Service”.
“If these allegations are true, it’s very disturbing,” said Bodluc. “He did very well on all the different things we do in the hiring process — psychological evaluations, polygraphs — all that checked out fine.”
“Some people are so good at the denial and putting it in the little box and hiding it away that it doesn’t come out on a polygraph. Also, polygraphs can be worked around depending on the person’s sophistication and skill,” said Psychologist Dr. Mark Ellinger. “Humans are very good at keeping secrets.”
The Department of Homeland Security filed a criminal complaint against Harding after learning that he posted and viewed illicit content while on duty in his patrol vehicle.
“The vehicle being in use, coupled with the lack of vehicle movement and the posts occurring using cellular date, is consistent with the child pornography uploads taking place while Harden was working in his Port St. Lucie Police Department vehicle,” said Special Agent Brain Ray.
Officer Harding is currently on unpaid leave pending the outcome of his trial. He faces charges of receiving and distributing material involving the sexual exploitation of minors and for the possession of child pornography. If found guilty he will face a minimum of five years in prison. The maximum is 20 years.
If Harding is to plead guilty- highly probably given the staggering amount of evidence against him- he could make a plea bargain for the lesser sentence.