The Irwindale Police Department and a group that runs the agency’s Explorer program for teens has agreed to pay $4 million to settle a lawsuit with three women who say they were sexually abused by a former police officer who served as the program’s advisor.
The three former Explorer Scouts, who are now adults, say former Officer Daniel Camerano molested them during ride-alongs and in the Irwindale police station between 2007 and 2010, when they were between 14 and 17 years old, according to Los Angeles County court records.
Attorney Anthony DeMarco said each of his clients joined the Explorer program with the goal of eventually working in law enforcement.
“Those dreams were derailed because of the depraved acts of former Officer Camerano and of the complicity of other members of the Irwindale Police Department,” he said. “Yet they came forward hoping to make Explorer programs safer for other girls seeking careers in law enforcement.”
Five women have come forward in recent years to lodge allegations of abuse against Camerano, 31, who resigned from the department in 2014 after having been on leave for more than a year while the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department investigated the accusations.
Learning for Life, the group that runs the Explorer program, did not respond to a request for comment Thursday. The Police Department declined to comment on the settlement.
“Due to the sensitive nature of this matter, we would simply like to report that the cases have been settled by our liability risk pool, the California Joint Powers Insurance Authority,” the city said in a statement.
Camerano pleaded no contest in 2014 to three felony charges for molesting a 14-year-old girl and sending sexual text messages to a 17-year-old girl. Both were Explorer Scouts when the incidents occurred. He was sentenced in 2015 to two years and eight months in prison and ordered to register as a sex offender for life.
In 2017, DeMarco and the department reached a $2.75-million settlement agreement for another woman who said she was repeatedly molested by Camerano while she was in the Explorer program.
DeMarco contends the most recent settlement is the largest reported in the nation of a sexual abuse case involving police Explorers. Similar abuse cases have grabbed headlines across the nation in recent years.
“Until there are fundamental changes in the way police Explorer programs are run, teenage girls and boys seeking careers in law enforcement through Explorers programs, will continue to be sexually abused by the law enforcement officials they look up to and are supposed to learn from,” DeMarco said. “The simplest thing that can be done to keep kids safer is put more than one adult or more than one minor on ride-alongs.”
DeMarco said evidence developed in the cases indicates that the department knew that Camerano had been accused of inappropriately touching an underage girl that he had baby-sat before he was hired as a police officer. The complaint was not investigated, and Camerano was placed in charge of the Explorer program shortly after he was hired, DeMarco said.
The abuse was kept under wraps for several years in part because of a culture at the agency that “bred this kind of behavior,” DeMarco said.
The department has struggled with problem officers in the past.
A former officer was sentenced to a year in jail for stealing his father’s life savings, and another officer pleaded no contest to two felony charges after being accused of sexually assaulting a female driver he pulled over.
Times staff writer Richard Winton contributed to this report.