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Van Buren Officer Put On Leave After Communication With 16-Year-Old

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A Van Buren Police Officer was put on an unpaid suspension following a complaint from parents about his communication attempts with their 16-year-old daughter, police say.

The 16-year-old daughter was stopped by Officer John Cao for speeding as she was going over the Midland bridge coming into Van Buren on (May 11) according to the Van Buren Police Department. She was not given a ticket according the department.

It's not abnormal for that situation to happen because Cao was looking for driving while intoxicated (DWI) violations that night, and cops often stop a lot of vehicles for various problems because they are looking for drunk drivers, according to Van Buren Police Chief Kenneth Bell.

"It is not a paid suspension," Bell said. "It`s an unpaid suspension for seven 12 hour shifts."

"It was one of those things, he runs radar at one location, he stops a lot of people for speeding and very seldom do people get speeding tickets," Bell said.

Bell explained that cops working DWI are strictly looking for DWI.

The video from that night was reviewed, and no violations were found, according to Bell.

Later, though, the officer attempted to contact the teen on Facebook. The girl talked it over with her parents, and they filed a complaint on her behalf, Bell said.

Cao does not face criminal charges, and an internal investigation was completed. No criminal violations were found, according to Bell.

There was a department policy that was violated, and he was disciplined according to that policy, Bell said.

Bell explained the Van Buren Police Department takes all complaints seriously.

"Obviously his behavior is not what we want the public to think that we are about, using our position to make personal arrangements or personal engagements. The Van Buren Police Department is not about that at all, and we took the complaint very seriously and disciplined officer Cao," Bell said.

Cao returns to work on Tuesday (June 24).


      • Gena

        So he didn’t write the girl a ticket and he contacted her on facebook which is no cause for arresting him or even firing him. He’s a good guy and a good cop. Some of these comments on how young he looks what does that have to do with whether he can do his job affectively?

      • Elaphas

        Yes, tell us Sarah. Maybe the guillotine? I’m sure you’ll also try to tie gun control or Obamacare or some other nonsensical liberal argument into this.

      • sorrynotsorry


        Last time I checked, good guys who are 34 years old do not hit on 16 year old girls. Putting her in an awkward situation to where she had to decide to do the right thing and tell her parents who filed a complaint. When they do file a complaint people make comments like she was probably asking for it or she probably led him on. What kind of example is that for any female? You will be judged by strangers for doing the right thing? From other comments this is not his first time and he has been doing this for at least 2 years now.

      • Sarah 1

        @ Elephas: Don’t try to put words on my comment that I did NOT say. Your credibility is found wanting when you posted three comments at exactly the same moment under the same names: Taz, Tom and Elephas. I think you are on a slippery slope as it is.

    • Gena

      This guy is a good cop and a good guy. He didn’t give her a ticket and last I checked it wasn’t against the law to contact someone on facebook. He may have done something to be worth suspended over but not fired.

  • mrmakeitworse

    I think he learned his lesson about picking up chicks while on duty. But my question is has he done this before and got away with it?

  • Clay Cooper

    Not knowing what really happened, I’m going to pass. What I will say, I’ve witnessed firsthand Officers getting in trouble trying to help an individual such as finding jobs or just being someone who cares. But of course this person was under 18…… It’s a shame we will never know the real story.
    I’ll ride 2nd Man with Officer Cao any day, any time!

  • Randy R. Waldroupe

    I just have to say is someone was attempting to get to know my daughter I would think a law officer would be much safer than some random person. The officer looks like he is awful young. I am not seeing anything news worthy here at all.

  • Jennifer

    I’ve had an encounter with Officer Cao before. He responded to a nasty situation at my house and was extremely polite and helpful. I found him to be courteous and professional. Hopefully this doesn’t impact his career in a negative way. We need more good officers.

    • Anna

      People can be polite and still try and talk to girls underage . There have been very polite child molesters before, so him being “nice” has nothing to do with him trying to contact an underage female on line

    • Kevin

      With him being nice and polite to females, makes them more comfortable around him. Part of his game. He was nice and polite to my wife when he pulled over, until he saw me in the car with her. Then he got rude and tried to show off what power he thinks he has (without me being rude and obnoxious).

  • Anna

    I’d like to know why ANY officer would try and contact an UNDERAGE girl on line!!! Why is everyone blowing this off like no big deal???? Has anyone thought to ask this cop why he needed to befriend an underage girl? I for one do not feel safe about perverted men being of authority in my community. Not saying he is, but with not comment from him as to his reasoning… Sure comes across as guilty.

    • FedUp

      Some are ‘blowing this off” because they/we only know what the media has reported. Let’s wait to get the whole story before we put on hoods and get a rope.

      • Anna

        Dear mr FEDUP. You seem to be defending this guy when you yourself say you don’t know the story. Could you provide ONE good reason an adult male ( cop) would use the information he obtained while on the job to find an underage girl on line ? Instead of reaching out to her parents? Just one good reason and I may see why your wound up so tight.

    • Sarah 1

      Therein lies the problem Anna. An officer of the law used personal information to talk to an underage teen via FB. If he was genuinely looking to be helpful in some way, he would have phoned the parents to receive approval.
      Too many officers are stepping over the proverbial line. There are so many excellent officers and for that I am thankful.

    • Jo

      Gotta say I couldn’t agree more. People seem to be giving this guy a free pass just because he is a cop. If it were a teacher everyone would have already jumped to their on conclusions, teacher would be fired.

  • Betty Crowder

    Maybe we do need to hear the whole story. But my opionion of him is low. I have had to call the police a couple of times in my neighborhood. All he did was run scared and threaten to take me to jail. For what?? Absolutely nothing!! They need to get real men for our police officers instead of kids that look like they just came out of daycare!

  • anonymous

    2 years ago while I was working at the nail shop, I had 2 clients come in for a pedicure at infinity nails in Poteau. One of the girls was talking about how she had a date with this guy! And that was 2 years ago!! It’s about time he got caught, it’s a shame he didn’t get turned in for what he usually does..

  • Johnny Sixpack

    There is nothing illegal about talking to “underage” people. All of you have your terms mixed up. Minor is different than underage. Fort smith had a cop get arrested for doing the nasty with a “minor”. If it was joe blow average person then 16 is age of consent. But because he was a mandated court reporter is why it was illegal to do the Nast with anyone under the age of 18. If he wasn’t a cop it wouldn’t have been illegal.

    • Big D

      Johnny Sixpack you might want to check the law again, after Jan 1 2014 the age of consent has been raised to 18 in the state of Arkansas……sounds like you are gonna have to fish in the other end of the pond from now on. Also law enforcement officers have a moral and ethical obligation that exceeds the standard set for citizens its part of the oath they take to become a police officer…sadly to some its just words.

  • SamJ

    You people are stupid. Clay, Randy Jennifer Sara and Johnny are supporting someone who at the least violated the public trust. Just because he has a badge, you give him a break. This is not the first time this has happened, He pulled this stuff with my daughter a couple of years ago. She did not file a compliant because she was afraid of being “marked” in VB and therefore being hassled all the time.
    Also, did I not read how a family in Fort Smith turned in a guy for just this sort of thing and the police took over her facebook account and set up a meet with the guy. Now he is behind bars. Why did this not occur with this POLICE OFFICER. Well we all know why.
    He should be fired period…..

    • Sarah 1

      Whoa there Sam. I was all for severe punishment.
      My comment above is:
      “Totally inappropriate behavior and worthy of much more than a few days off work.”
      Undercover should have enticed this officer and see how far he would go.

  • ehhh

    He’s in his late 20’s, but not quite over 30 yet. Depending on the content of the message sent to the girl on facebook depends on how this should be handled. By reading the medias story and reading what was said by his commanding officer, it must not have been that bad of a message. As someone above me said, age of consent is like what, 16? Maybe it was something simple as ” Hey I’m not sure if you remember me, but I pulled you over one night, you seemed nice, but I know you’re under 18. I’m not sure how your parents would feel if you dated someone that’s 28?”. If the message were along those lines, then I don’t think it’s a big deal. The situation, with more of a “predator” could have been WAY worse. However I will bet, if the message was something bad or degrading, or threatening, he’d been fired or put in jail himself. Use your brain.

    • Mark Smith

      EHHH – are you serious? You actually think this is appropriate? You must be Arkansas born and raised and contributed to the states ranking of 48th in the country in Education. Your mindset is reflects the ignorance that is appalling that continues the areas poverty and neglect of children all so babies can continue to have more babies. After all it was good enough for MeMaw and she’s 35! Disgusting Cretin

  • RR

    Why wasn’t her FB account turned over to an undercover detective who would encourage further conversation and subsequent arrest for internet stalking of a minor? Could it be because he is on the police force?

  • Justice

    He wasn’t picking up adult chicks while on duty, he attempted to pick up a child. Major difference! I’m sure we will eventually hear more about this “good cop and good guy”

  • Scott

    I’ve seen at least 3 other younger females say that they were contacted by him after a traffic stop. He even came to one of their places of employment to find her. Maybe these ladies need to stand up and report this as well..

  • Drexyl

    Uhhhh isn’t a girl 16 considered underage in AR? Why would a grown man be chatting up a minor on facebook? The guy is a pedophile..cop or not

  • Advocate

    He was suspended based on a verbal complaint from the parents. Has anyone entertained the possibility that it’s BS? I’ve nearly been fired twice from my tech support job because of lying women, thank god for recordings. Why wasn’t the “inappropriate” face book messaging brought up as evidence? Don’t pretend they were worried about being hassled, there’s nothing VB loves more than to run someone into the ground based on hearsay.

    • Mark Smith

      Advocate- have you not read the other comments here from many people reporting the same behavior?? Don’t you read? Where there is smoke, there is fire. Totally inappropriate and he should be prosecuted.

  • Adam

    What is wrong with you people? He had zero business looking up a 16 yr old girl that he met while on a traffic stop. These cops are always hanging out with young girls and nobody seems to care. Why? Because they’re cops and can be trusted automatically? Grow up. He’s a predator and he was after her. She was just smart enough to get him called out. You people disgust me defending the degenerate puke. He really seems to be “protecting and serving” doesn’t he?

  • anonymous

    I hope for everyone that has experienced any problems with John, please step forward and say something. Hiding behind that badge should not protect him in any way.

  • Lightning

    The way I see it is if he didn’t write her up the ticket she was probably trying the flirt with him to get out of being busted for speeding. Plus contacting her on Facebook that “Could’ve” been her fault too. A lot of people specially women try to do thing to get oit of a speeding ticket. Also for those two to contact each other as of Facebook policies you have to accept that person’s invite in order too talk message wise unless her account isn’t set to privite. Then its her fault also for communicating with him. We don’t know the full story because we weren’t there. So why automatically judge someone… All we know is what was said by New officals. Nowadays all it takes is for someone to say I was raped and people believe it but hear say. And people get in trouble because of a he said she thing…

    • Obvious

      No, you do not have to accept someone’s friend request for them to be able to send you a message!! And just because it’s not set to private doesn’t make it her fault that HE CONTACTED her. You are right about the fact that we don’t know the whole story but I do know this; he is a police officer, he is 34, he met her at a traffic stop, he contacted her, she was 16.

      That’s all I need to know, regardless of the rest of the story, it’s wrong. I’m not saying he had bad intentions. Nobody knows what was going through his mind. He should not have used his position to contact an underage girl.

  • anonymous

    When I was 15 this guy tried to sleep with me. This was before he was a cop. I’d say he was about 23 back when this happened.

  • NickkiJohns

    I wish warrant checks and drug screens could be made on people who post on stories like this lol

  • Betty Crowder

    If I was the girls parent I would get a lawyer and sue him and the VBPD! But, that is just me. I don’t like anyone harassing my daughter. I have no respect for him. I have seen him go to my neighbors, when the teenage girl beat her grandmother. He told her, she could have her grandmother arrested. Supposedly. Didn’t believe it at the time. but now I do! I have see too much over at this house. No one has ever been arrested! Hmm….

  • Reese Dumas

    I live in Van Buren and I respect the police here but do not like them for this exact reason. It took a FOIA just to get it out of them a month later. He had at least two infractions he should have done something about. 1: Speeding since these chumps always sitting across from TEC for that same offense. 2: Curfew, since it was 1 in the morning and she’s 16. That department is shady to me. Not really community oriented or as transparent as a police department should be.

  • me

    Did anyone see the article about the officer, buying a “child who was under the age of 16” a bed, dressor, got a donation for a Wii console, and still goes to the childs house to “hang out”. The news report doesnt report that it was a negative or inappropriate message at all. As far as we all know the message could have been a well fare check. Dont get me wrong it could have been a negative or inappropriate message. An investigation occured and nothing inappropriate was noted or the punishment would have matched the offense. This is still the United States of American, even in Crawford County, so he is innocent until proven guilty. And since there was an investigation and no innapropriate content was discovered, he is innocent.

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