SAN JOSE, Calif. – A recent feature added to the app Snapchat allows male and female users to see what they would look like as the opposite sex.
This is the story about how one male student used the technology to pose as an underage girl on Tinder to try and catch sexual predators…. and a police officer who took allegedly the bait.
The app’s “lens” option reads the structure of a user’s face, then uses that mapping to create an effect. You’ve probably seen the dog ears lens… and possibly a newer one that allows a user to be a donut-munching cop.
But the newest lens allows users to actually switch to the opposite sex. In an attempt to take down sexual predators online, 20-year-old Ethan, who did not want to provide his last name, created a fake online dating profile for “Esther”.
Ethan reportedly used the app’s lens to make himself look like a girl, then setup the profile on Tinder, a swipe-style dating app. He set “Esther’s” age to 19, as Tinder doesn’t allow underage users to setup a profile, then began looking for matches.
The person he found wasn’t who he expected.
San Mateo Police Officer Robert Davies, 40, began talking with who he thought was “Esther” on Tinder on May 11, before the two switched to Kik messaging app, where Ethan said Esther was 16, which “Davies acknowledged,” according to a release from the San Jose Police Department.
Ethan told the officer that “Esther” was actually 16, which he acknowledged before asking if the two could switch over to other messaging apps.
“Davies then asked her to switch to Snapchat where they also discussed her being 16 years old, and chatted about engaging in sexual activity,” the release said.
“We started texting on there, and it got a lot more explicit,” Ethan said.
After a while, Ethan reported Davies to authorities, having discovered he was actually a full-time police officer. On June 6, Davies was arrested on suspicion of contacting a minor to commit a felony and was taken to the Santa Clara County Jail.
The department that Officer Davies is employed at issued a statement following his arrest.
“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 in the statement.
Davies was placed on administrative leave while the investigation continues.
When asked why he wanted to dive into vigilante justice, Ethan told authorities that he had a female friend who was molested when she was younger, and wanted to prevent that from happening to others in the future.