FORT LAUDERDALE — A Fort Lauderdale police officer has been arrested on charges that he engaged in sexual chats online with an undercover detective that he believed was an underage girl.
Broward sheriff’s detectives arrested Louis James Walsh, 29, at the Fort Lauderdale Police Department on Wednesday. Walsh was still in the Broward Main Jail as of 6 p.m.
Investigators say Walsh sent a photo of himself and exposed his private area, unaware that he was chatting with a detective in Minnesota. He faces two counts of transmission of material harmful to a minor.
Walsh works special security details at Cardinal Gibbons High School and St. Anthony Catholic School. He also is a wrestling coach at Cardinal Gibbons.
Interim Police Chief Patrick Lynn has placed Walsh on administrative leave without pay pending the outcome of the case.
When the criminal investigation is over, the Internal Affairs division of the Fort Lauderdale Police Department will conduct its own administrative investigation, Lynn said.
Lynn notified the department of the arrest Wednesday in an internal memo saying the agency was contacted by detectives with the Broward Sheriff’s Office in reference to the arrest warrant for one of the department’s officers.
“It is with great disappointment that I inform you of the arrest of Officer Louis Walsh,” Lynn wrote.
The Broward Sheriff’s Office, in conjunction with the Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force, obtained the warrant for his arrest, Lynn wrote.
“The details surrounding these allegations are very difficult to hear and do not reflect the character and professionalism expected of the men and women of this agency,” he wrote. “Our agency will continue to cooperate with all agencies involved in this investigation.”
Walsh has been an officer with the Fort Lauderdale Police Department for five years, a spokesman for the agency said.
Lynn issued the following public statement regarding the arrest:
“This is a difficult situation for everyone involved. The Fort Lauderdale Police Department is shocked and disappointed to learn of the arrest of one of our officers. After an investigation by the Broward Sheriff’s Office, Louis Walsh was taken into custody on Wednesday. The details surrounding these allegations are very difficult to hear and do not reflect the character and professionalism expected of the men and women of this agency. Walsh has been placed on administrative leave without pay pending the outcome of a criminal investigation. This investigation will be handled by the BSO and we encourage anyone who may feel victimized by this individual to immediately contact them 954-888-5290.”
Officer Walsh worked on traffic details, supervising the arrival and dismissal of students at St. Anthony Elementary School and Cardinal Gibbons High School, both located in Fort Lauderdale, said Mary Ross Agosta, a spokeswoman for the Archdiocese of Miami.
“The Safe Environment Office and the Superintendent of Schools encourage parents to review with their children the “Teaching Boundaries Safety” lessons taught in Catholic Schools, and be aware of any suspicious activity on laptops, cellphones, iPads or desktops,” Agosta said in a post on Twitter.