A college student in San Francisco got a police officer arrested on suspicion of discussing sexual activity with a minor after he used a Snapchat filter to pretend he was an underage girl online.
Ethan, 20, reportedly said he decided to create an undercover online profile to identify possible pedophiles, the student told NBC Bay Area in an interview that aired Monday night. He did not reveal his last name out of fear of retaliation.
The student took a picture of himself using Snapchat’s “gender switch” filter, which displayed him with more feminine features. He told NBC that he used the picture to pose as a 19-year-old named “Esther” on Tinder when 40-year-old San Mateo Police Officer Robert Davies allegedly messaged him. The conversation began on May 11, according to investigators.
The two moved their conversation from Tinder to another app called Kik, where “Esther” told Davies she was actually 16 and asked if that would bother him. According to screenshots obtained by investigators, Davies reportedly acknowledged her age and asked her to switch to Snapchat, where they also discussed her being a minor and talked about engaging in sexual activity.
Ethan told NBC he exchanged messages with the officer for more than 12 hours before sending screenshots of the conversations to Silicon Valley Crime Stoppers. San Jose police arrested Davies on Thursday, and he faces a charge of contacting a minor to commit a felony.
The officer has been placed on paid administrative leave, according to the San Mateo Police Department. It’s unclear whether he has an attorney.
“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,” San Mateo Police Chief Susan Manheimer said Thursday in a statement. “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.’”
Ethan told NBC he created the fake Tinder account because a female friend had told him she was molested as a child.
“I was just looking to get someone,” the student said. “He just happened to be a cop.”