An investigation into police sex stings conducted by Florida police found over 1,200 cases in which officers routinely entrapped innocent victims, stole their property, and came close to ruining people’s lives.
As part of a year-long investigation, the Tampa, Florida-based news station 10 Investigates found through court records that part of the Central Florida Internet Crimes Against Children (ICAC) task force spent hours on predator sting operations. Officials also violated arrest rules to inflate arrest totals, and stole property from alleged perpetrators.
The station found that many of the men arrested and publicly shamed during TV press conferences were not actually looking for children online like police suspected. Instead, they were looking for other adults when detectives started to groom and convince them to break the law.
Oftentimes reporters found this was an effort to boost arrest totals. And since the news team started investigating, law enforcement has run fewer operations, skipped press conferences and arrested fewer men. The group found that at its height, since the task force began in 2008, they arrested 1,200 men under the program.
Back in August, Ret. Army Col. Mike Pheneger, the chair of the Greater Tampa Chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union, expressed concern about the “To Catch a Predator”-style stings.