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Retired Tampa cop, teacher, 'predator patrol' volunteer among recent sex crime suspects in positions of trust

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TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — Retired Tampa Police Sgt. Paul Mumford was on the other side of the law Thursday, dressed in a prison jumpsuit in a sea of orange, during his initial appearance on child pornography charges.

The veteran police officer’s case is among a number of local investigations involving people in positions of trust accused of sex crimes.

During Mumford’s hearing, his attorney Morris Purcell questioned why he was charged with so many counts of possession of child pornography by his former department.

“One hundred counts?” Purcell said. “That’s abusive. That’s vindictive.”

Mumford, who retired in 2015, had been part of the Tampa Police sex crimes unit for about a year starting in 2008.

Judge Catherine Catlin briefly addressed that in court.

“It greatly concerns me that he may have access to this because of his position as a police officer,” judge Catlin said.

According to Tampa police, so far there are no indications Mumford accessed child porn pictures stored as evidence by the department.

Child advocate Judy Cornett pointed out predators that purposefully choose jobs that place them near children is not a new problem. She said recent investigations are definitely a reminder of why parents need to be vigilant when protecting their children from predators.

“You find out something like this and it’s who do you trust?” Cornett said. “It’s shocking.”

Retired officer Mumford’s case broke this week.

Last week, Matthew Hike, 33, who was a teacher and coach at Livingstone Academy, was arrested for allegedly showing porn to a student and then molesting him.

James Roope

The case of James Roope hit close to home for Cornett. He was a volunteer for Safety Zone, a non-profit Cornett started to teach children the tools they need to protect themselves from predators.

“It hurts,” Cornett said. “It’s just like someone taking a knife to our chest. You want to hope that those who volunteer have good intentions and that they are here for the right reasons.”

Cornett became a vocal advocate for helping children protect themselves after her son was kidnapped while riding his bike and then assaulted in the early 90s.

She said her organization did a background check on Roope, but he was arrested for child porn and molestation after that while he was volunteering for Safety Zone.

“Short of reading someone’s mind, I don’t know what we could’ve done,” Cornett said. “There were no signs of anything. He was a good volunteer. There we no red flags that he was a creep. We have to be even more vigilant.”

She said one common thread that may exacerbate the problem is a lack of prison time for child porn defendants.

“The photo is now on the internet for everybody to see for a lifetime,” Cornett said. “And you’re going to get a slap on the wrist, and you may never get caught again because now you know how not to get caught.”

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