Michael Harding, Cop Who Was Once 'Officer of the Year,' Arrested on Child Porn Charges

Port St. Lucie police officer Michael Harding
Port St. Lucie police officer Michael HardingPort St. Lucie Police Department

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By Elizabeth Chuck

A Florida cop who was once recognized as "Officer of the Year" has been arrested on child pornography charges.

Port St. Lucie Officer Michael Harding was charged Wednesday with distributing and receiving pornography after undercover Homeland Security investigators say he allegedly posted explicit images online using the smartphone app Kik on July 23. Location data from his police cruiser show he was on duty at the time, according to charging documents.

The investigators executed a search warrant on Harding's home on Tuesday and found a thumb drive "containing hundreds of images and videos of children engaged in sexually explicit conduct" in a gun case in Harding's bedroom closet, the affidavit says.

Port St. Lucie police officer Michael HardingPort St. Lucie Police Department

Harding, 27, is married and has three kids, according to NBC affiliate WPTV. He was hailed as the "Officer of the Year" in 2011 while working for the nearby Fort Pierce police department. He has worked for the Port St. Lucie police department since 2012, WPTV said.

"If these allegations are true, it's very disturbing," Port St. Lucie Police Chief John Bolduc told the station. "He did very well on all the different things we do in the hiring process — psychological evaluations, polygraphs — all that checked out fine."

Harding has been placed on administrative leave without pay during the investigation, Bolduc added. He is being held without bond and will appear in court next Wednesday, investigators said in a press release.