A Port St. Lucie police officer has been arrested and appeared in federal court Wednesday.
Michael Harding, 27, was arrested on federal charges as part of a Homeland Security investigation.
According to the complaint, Harding is facing charges for receiving and distributing material involving sexual exploitation of minors and possession of child pornography.
According to federal investigators, Harding was using his cell phone to post child porn on a social media phone app called “Kik” while he was on-duty working the overnight road patrol shift. Homeland Security Investigators say Harding went by the username “desthfromabovee” and posted the photos in a sexually explicit chat-room where users share child porn.
Federal investigators also searched Harding’s home and found a thumb drive hidden in a gun case that contained hundreds of photos and videos of child porn, according to the criminal complaint.
Port St. Lucie Police Chief John Bolduc said his department was only made aware of the investigation Tuesday morning when Harding was arrested.
Bolduc said his department is fully cooperating with Homeland Security Investigations. Harding has been placed on unpaid administrative leave pending the outcome of the investigation.
Since graduating from Indian River State College in 2008, Harding has had a stellar law enforcement career including several awards and commendations at both Port St. Lucie Police Department and Ft. Pierce Police Department where he worked previously.
He was named “Police Officer of the Year” in 2011.
“Mr. Harding had no disciplinary action at the department. He has several commendations. If these allegations are true, it’s very disturbing because the public puts a tremendous amount of trust in its officers,” said Bolduc.
He is married with three children.
Harding is facing a minimum of five years with a possible maximum of 20 years in prison.
His next hearing is scheduled for Sept. 30. He was not released on bond and is in the St. Lucie County Jail.