A Deputy with the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department, serving as a mentor in the department’s “Explorer Program,” has been arrested for having sex with a teenage girl, according to a report from ABC 7. Deputy David Israel Ceballos was arrested Friday on charges of Unlawful Sexual Intercourse with a Minor and Sex with a Foreign Object on a Minor. His bail was set at $100,000.
According to a press release from the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department, Ceballos, 34, pursued an off-duty sexual relationship with the victim, then a 17-year-old Explorer Scout whom he met in mid-2016 during an Explorer event. The investigation is still underway, but the Sheriff’s Department says that they are unaware of any other victims at this time. The victim, who remains unidentified, is now 18.
Ceballos, a 14-year veteran of the force, was placed on paid administrative leave when the allegations came to light, “which is required by State law,” pending a separate administrative investigation. He was one of the Explorer Coordinators at the Fontana Sheriff’s Station.
The allegations came to light when other Explorer Scouts “who did the right thing” became aware of Ceballos’ conduct and reported it to another Deputy who was an Explorer Administrator. According to the preliminary investigation, the victim was not assigned to the same station as Ceballos; their relationship began after a chance encounter at an event.
“The Explorer Program is an excellent long-standing volunteer program that allows young people across the county to examine Law Enforcement as a potential career. It is unfortunate that the actions of a few over the last decade have cast a negative light on a program many deputies and explorers work hard to make a premier youth program in our county,” said Sheriff John McMahon.
He’s referring to the fact that Explorer Programs across the nation have consistently resulted in similar incidents. Explorer Programs are administered across America, usually by local police, fire, and border patrol services, sometimes by local scouting organizations, to introduce youth to law enforcement and related careers; the San Bernardino Explorer Program is run by the Sheriff’s Department and is intended for youth aged 14 to 20, both to “build mutual understanding” and as a “potential recruitment tool” for those interested in going into law enforcement. Explorers act as a community service group and exist as potential additional manpower for the Sheriff’s Department.
But there’s a darker side to these programs that has existed since they were first instituted: as the Edwards Law blog reports, there is a significant incidence of sexual abuse and illegal conduct between officers and Explorers stretching back to when Explorer Programs first began accepting girls in the 1940s.
The Edwards Law article, published in 2011, suggests that in recent decades there have been hundreds of reported cases of police officers becoming sexually involved with the (overwhelmingly underage) teenagers they were trusted to mentor – including multiple cases out of the San Bernardino Sheriff’s Department, which in 2011 former Sheriff Rod Hoops promised to go over “with a fine toothed-comb” when two separate cases came to light within weeks of each other, as reported by Redlands Daily Facts.
“We don’t want to throw the entire program under the bus. We can’t judge a good program based on what I would call the despicable actions of a few.”
It’s a sentiment that Sheriff McMahon echoes, five years later.
“It is my expectation that we thoroughly investigate and swiftly take action in cases like this so as to not deter the positive motivation of those involved in the program.”
Meanwhile, the investigation into Ceballos’ actions carries on. Once completed, it will be submitted to the District Attorney’s Office for a filing review.
What do you think, readers? Are Explorer Programs worth the associated risks?
[Featured Image by San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department Handout]