JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- The Jacksonville Sheriff's Office has good police officers who have sworn to protect and serve, but a mother has lost her confidence in one of the men in blue.
"I have some concern with a JSO officer contacting my minor son asking him to meet him out," Michelle said.
Michelle is the name we are using to protect the identity of her 16-year-old son. She said he is being targeted by a 28-year old JSO officer.
"I mean he had daily communications with my son," she said. "The officer is still driving by our home and I reported that as well."
She said her son met the officer this past summer while he was working at a local restaurant.
"He asked for his information, he introduced himself as a local concerned officer in the neighborhood," she said. "The daily communications began via Snapchat."
There were Snapchat conversations and there were phone texts.
Michelle said the most troubling text she discovered was the one inviting her son to meet him at a Waffle House; it was sent 1:14 a.m. She said the meeting never happened.
"We're grateful enough to find out before it got to that point," she said.
Michelle filed a complaint with JSO's integrity unit and was interviewed mid-August. Her complaint was referred to Internal Affairs.
"My concern is he may be doing this to other children," she said.
Attorney Lynn Salvatore has investigated child abuse cases in the past. She said grooming is a very subtle tactic.
"It can happen over a period of weeks," she said. "It can happen over a period of years and it is subtle."
Unfortunately, she said it often goes undetected.
"I'd like to say that there are always red flags," she said. "But I cannot say that."
Michelle said even though nothing physically occurred with her son, she wants JSO to take action.
"It is very disheartening that someone in a position of power would use that to gain the trust of a minor for ill intentions," she said.
We reached out to JSO for comment. Lauri-Ellen Smith provided the following statement.
"Per Florida Statute we can’t comment on any specific complaint that may be under investigation, but I can assure you that should any allegation such as you described be brought to our attention, it would be thoroughly investigated."
Child protection experts say child grooming takes place in five steps:
- Gain the victim's trust
- Fill a need
- Isolate the child
- A sexualized relationship