A San Mateo police officer recently recognized for his leadership was arrested Thursday by San Jose police on suspicion of discussing sexual activity with a minor on social media.
Officer Robert Davies was arrested for contacting a minor to commit a felony after the SJPD crimes against children unit received a tip from a concerned citizen who posed as a 16-year-old girl on several mobile applications and chatted with Davies about engaging in sexual activity, police said.
Last month, the tipster created a fictitious Tinder account as a 19-year-old female but filtered the profile photo to appear as a young girl, knowing that Tinder does not allow accounts for juveniles, police said.
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On May 11, the tipster began exchanges with Davies, and they switched to Kik, where the tipster told Davies she was 16, and Davies acknowledged that, police said. Davies then asked her to switch to Snapchat, where they also discussed her being 16 and chatted about engaging in sexual activity.
The tipster, identified in court records as a San Jose resident, told police he had a female friend who had been molested as a child and went online to create an undercover profile to identify possible pedophiles.
After detectives confirmed Davies' identity, they served search warrants on electronic devices, mobile applications and on Davies' home.
On Thursday, Davies was arrested in the city of Morgan Hill and booked into Santa Clara County Jail.
San Jose State technology expert Ahmed Banafa said Thursday there may have been a reason the officer wanted to switch to Snapchat, but he may have calculated wrong.
"With Snapchat, whatever pictures, stories, video will disappear after a few seconds," Banafa said. But, "once it’s in the internet, it stays there forever. Even if it disappears on Snapchat, it’s stored somewhere on the servers."
Davies has been placed on paid administrative leave, according to the San Mateo Police Department. San Mateo police Chief Susan Manheimer released a statement about the arrest Thursday:
"This alleged conduct, if true, is in no way a reflection of all that we stand for as a Department, and is an affront to the tenets of our department and our profession as a whole. As San Mateo police officers, we have sworn an oath to serve and protect our communities. I can assure you that we remain steadfast to this commitment to serving our community with “Professionalism, Integrity, and Excellence."
On May 2, the department posted a congratulatory tweet for Davies' and another officer's graduation from a leadership program, saying "They put a great deal of time and effort into the program and can now reap its rewards."
Davies faces a charge of contacting a minor to commit a felony, police said.
Anyone with information about the incident or any similar incidents should contact Detective Michael O'Grady at 408-537-1397. Those wishing to remain anonymous may call the Crime Stoppers Tip Line, 408-947-STOP (7867).
Roz Plater contributed to this report.