But that is not the case with Michael Harding of the Port St. Lucie Police Department, who once was named “Officer of the Year.”
At least not since he was arrested on two counts of child pornography.
It is reported that in July of 2015, Harding used the KiK instant message service to post and share the grotesque content. What is even more disappointing is the fact that he was tracked viewing and receiving the content while on duty.
A Department of Homeland Security undercover agent was in the chat room called “#toddlerf**k,” which is where Harding’s sick and illegal activities were discovered. His chat room name was “desthfromabovee.” And the images and videos he possessed were of preteen and preschool age victims.
Moreover, at Harding’s home, hundreds of images & videos of sexually exploited children were found on his computer. In addition, Officer Harding used his department issued laptop computer to upload child pornography. Harding is married with three young children.
Officer Harding was once a decorated police officer; he has even done public safety videos. In hindsight, public safety videos should have been done on how to stay away from predators like Harding.
In 2011, while working for the Fort Pierce Police Department, Harding was named Officer of the Year. And the previous year, he received the “Exceptional Police Service.” At the time, Harding had issued 76 DUI citations – a key component to him winning Officer of the Year. Police say Harding performed well on all psychological exams and annual evaluations.
Harding is on unpaid leave pending the outcome of the investigation and faces a mandatory minimum of five years in prison with a maximum of 20 years if found guilty.
Considering the staggering amount of evidence against Harding, it is likely that he will plead guilty to a plea deal for a lesser sentence. Harding may also plead innocent by way of insanity.
But a judge would have to be insane to believe him.
The criminal complaint filed by the Department of Homeland Security further shows that Harding would engage in the posting and viewing of child pornography in his patrol vehicle. Special Agent Brain Ray stated that “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.”
Port St. Lucie Police Chief John Bolduc said, “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.”
Harding has a degree in criminal justice technology from Indian River State College in Florida. He was hired by the Fort Pierce Police Department in 2008, and left in 2011 to take a job with the Port St. Lucie Police Department a few miles south.
In 2012, Harding was reprimanded for not completing his monthly Police Law Institute online training on time. But now we know he was perhaps too busy doing something else online.
And earlier this year, another Officer of the Year, this one from the Champaign Police Department in Illinois, was arrested earlier this year on rape charges, accused of choking and raping several women.