An Orange County detective faces up to a year in jail for sexting a decoy he thought was 14 years old.
43-year-old Gregory Daniel Beaumarchais was named "Detective of the Year" in 2019.
If convicted, Beaumarchais, who surrendered to authorities Tuesday, will have to register as a sex offender.
43-year-old Gregory Daniel Beaumarchais, an officer with the Santa Ana police department once named "Detective of the Year," faces up to a year in jail for sexting a decoy he believed was 14 years old.
Beaumarchais, who surrendered to authorities on Tuesday and is on administrative leave, has been charged with one misdemeanor count of annoying or molesting a victim believed to be under the age of 18. If convicted, he faces a maximum sentence of one year in the Orange County Jail and will be required to register as a sex offender.
A civilian decoy, who posed as a 14-year-old girl on social media allegedly received sexually explicit messages from the detective between December 2021 and January 2022, according to a statement released by the Orange County District Attorney's office.
The decoy reported the officer's messages to OC Crime Stoppers, which prompted an investigation by the US Department of Homeland Security.
The officer — who in 2019 was named the department's "Detective of the Year" — is accused of sending some of the inappropriate messages while on duty and creating alternate accounts to circumvent social media bans to continue sending the messages.
"Police officers are entrusted with the sacred responsibility to safeguard society from harm," Orange County District Attorney Todd Spitzer said in a statement. "It is beyond disturbing that a sworn police officer would engage in inappropriate conversations with someone he believed to be a child. Our children should not have to worry about being preyed upon by the very people we teach them who are there to protect them. The vast majority of police officers are the trusted authority figures we expect them to be and when an officer engages in criminal behavior it tarnishes the badge of all of our hardworking law enforcement officers."
The District Attorney's office and Santa Ana Police Department did not immediately respond to Insider's request for comment.
Rates of sex crimes committed by police officers are unclear, as the crimes often go unreported. A 2015 investigation by the Associated Press found approximately 1,000 officers who lost their badges in a six-year period for crimes including rape, sodomy, and other sex crimes including possession of child pornography. About one-third of the officers decertified were accused of incidents involving juveniles.
"It's happening probably in every law enforcement agency across the country," Chief Bernadette DiPino of the Sarasota Police Department in Florida, who helped study the problem for the International Association of Chiefs of Police, told AP at the time. "It's so underreported and people are scared that if they call and complain about a police officer, they think every other police officer is going to be then out to get them."
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