‘Man’ brilliantly tricks alleged predator
A POLICE officer has been arrested after a man used a fake Tinder account and a "gender-switch" Snapchat photo to lure predators.
The man, disturbed by the news his female friend had been molested when she was a child, decided to use the mobile phone apps to become a vigilante predator hunter, according to NBC News Bay Area.
The man, from the San Francisco Bay Area, who has only identified himself as Ethan, 20, because he fears being targeted with retaliatory attacks, used Snapchat's gender-switch filter to create a fake profile on dating app Tinder.
Snapchat, the photo and video sharing app, allows users to alter their content with filters, and in May the app launched a wildly popular gender-switching filter. The feature instantaneously alters the user's facial features and hair with dramatic, gender-switching results.
Since the launch of the new filter, along with a filter that makes users look like a baby, downloads of the app have doubled, according to The Washington Post.
Using these gender-switch photos, Ethan created a Tinder profile with original photos that protected him from being traced for using fake photos or catfishing.
Ethan named himself "Esther" online and began fishing for predators.
He soon matched with a man named Rob.
"I believe he messaged me, 'Are you down to have some fun tonight?' and I decided to take advantage of it," Ethan told NBC Bay Area.
The man texting Ethan was a police officer from San Mateo, south of San Francisco, according to multiple reports.
Ethan wrote back, as Esther, on a different app, Kik. Esther's Tinder profile listed her age as 19, as the app only allows adult users. When the two began messaging on a second app, Ethan told Rob he was a 16-year-old girl and asked if that bothered him.
It's alleged the officer initially said the teen's age "might be an issue", but when Esther asked if he was "still down", he responded with an emoji of a man shrugging.
"You won't even send (any) pics of you," he allegedly said.
"We started texting on there, and it got a lot more explicit," Ethan told NBC.
While Rob pushed the conversation back onto Snapchat, where conversations are automatically deleted, Ethan took screenshots and turned his phone to flight mode to stop updates being sent to Rob as he recorded the conversation.
Ethan then shared these screenshots with police.
Local police told the station screengrabs of the conversation indicated to them the police officer was not bothered by the age Ethan pretended to be during the conversation.
San Jose police have identified the man as Robert Davies, a 40-year-old police officer from San Mateo.
After several weeks of investigation, the San Jose Police Department arrested Mr Davies, and he is now being held in the Santa Clara County Jail on $US50,000 ($A72,000) bond.
Mr Davies was charged with the felony offence of contacting a minor to commit a felony.
"Whether or not the person is 16 is irrelevant," San Jose Police Sergeant Enrique Garcia told KTVU.
"If the suspect believes it's a 16-year-old on the other end, the suspect should have terminated that conversation, specifically when it talks about engaging in sexual activity.
San Mateo Police Chief Susan Manheimer said in a statement: "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."
Mr Davies has been placed on administrative leave, according to The Washington Post.
Ethan told NBC he does not plan to use Tinder to catch more predators.
"I was just looking to get someone," he explained. "He just happened to be a cop."