Former Charlotte-Mecklenburg police Officer Thomas E. Allen pleaded guilty on Wednesday to secretly taking photos of girls’ underwear as they participated in a youth police program.
Allen, 42, a police officer in Charlotte for 18 years, was placed on probation for 36 months. He will not be required to register as a sex offender.
Allen was charged in February with four counts of secretly using a camera to view another’s body or undergarments, and four counts of possessing the photographs. He took photos – including the illicit ones – as part of his job for the youth Explorers program.
Allen said he sought help after his wife found the photos and kicked him out of the house.
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“I had to look at myself as I really am,” he said, standing a few feet from where his wife sat in the gallery. “I am an addict.”
Defense attorney George Laughrun said Allen has been in treatment for a pornography addiction.
“From day one, it was all about rehabilitation for him,” he said. “He did more than anybody could ever ask from somebody with an addiction.”
Allen became a recruiter at the police training academy in 2002 and had worked in several programs involving teenagers interested in police careers. He was fired from the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department after charges were brought against him.
Laughrun said Allen took thousands of photos for CMPD’s youth programs. Investigators found only the four pictures of young girls’ underwear, and no child pornography, he said.
“Allen’s behavior is totally unacceptable,” CMPD Chief Rodney Monroe said in a February news conference after Allen was charged. “It violates the public trust.”
Allen said that he has voluntarily restricted his Internet access. He said he does not have a camera or a phone with Internet access and his home computer has content filters.
He also told Superior Court Judge Lisa Bell that he attends weekly counseling sessions and support groups and has participated in a 90-day program at Celebrate Recovery, a Christian-based 12-step recovery program.
“I can’t change what I did, but I can take full responsibility,” Allen told the judge.
Bell said in her sentence that Allen will not have to register because of his voluntary efforts to control his addiction. Because Allen is charged with peeping, Bell had to decide whether to put him on North Carolina’s sex offender registry.
Laughrun compared Allen’s pornography addiction to alcoholism. He said Allen’s problem will never be cured but can be controlled.
“The question is, will he be strong enough to resist it?” the defense attorney said.
Bell also ruled that Allen cannot have unsupervised contact with girls under the age of 18, especially anyone who was in the Explorer program. He also cannot possess any photos of underage girls.
One woman whose daughter was in the photos asked the judge to give Allen a stronger sentence than probation.
“I’m asking you as a parent that (my daughter) and I don’t want him to be able to do this to anyone else,” the woman said. “She feels violated and abused.”
After the hearing, the woman went up to a teenage girl waiting for her outside the courtroom. The pair embraced and cried, before walking away.
Allen had made an apology to the woman in court.
“I violated your daughter’s trust,” he said. “I recognize that there is no excuse for it.”