A 32-year officer of the Philadelphia Police Department was arrested Thursday morning and charged with possession of child pornography after FBI agents raided his city home, federal authorities announced.
William Watts Sr., 55, has been charged by a criminal complaint with transportation and possession of child pornography arising from his transmission over the internet of images of children being sexually abused, acting U.S. Attorney Jennifer Arbittier Williams said.
“The defendant sought out videos of children being abused for his own gratification — thus adding to the demand for these types of images to be produced and more children to be victimized,” Williams said in a statement.
“The convenience and accessibility of digital images, coupled with the ease with which child sexual exploitation crimes can be concealed online, make these cases extremely difficult to investigate and prosecute,” she said. “However, our office and our law enforcement partners are committed to doing this difficult work in order to hold people like this defendant accountable, no matter their position in the community or occupation.”
Police Commissioner Danielle Outlaw planned to suspend Watts for 30 days with the intent to dismiss him, a department spokesperson said. Watts was last assigned to the First Police District, which includes parts of South and Southwest Philadelphia.
The criminal complaint alleges that Watts downloaded multiple files of child pornography from the internet application WhatsApp, including depictions of prepubescent children engaged in sexual acts, some with adults.
He was arrested after FBI agents executed a federal search warrant at his residence, authorities said. Watts, who was still in custody Thursday night, is scheduled to make his initial appearance in federal court Friday, and a pretrial detention and probable-cause hearing will be scheduled for next week, authorities said.
“No one is above the law,” Bradley S. Benavides, acting special agent in charge of the FBI’s Philadelphia division, said in a statement.
If convicted, Watts faces a maximum sentence of 40 years in federal prison.
Watts is one of at least four Philadelphia officers who have been arrested on child-pornography charges in recent years. Emmanuel Folly, 29, was arrested in April 2017, and Novice Sloan, 31, in October 2019. Both are free on bail while they await their trials in state court.
In January, James Strohm, a 20-year veteran of the department, was sentenced to more than 14 years in federal prison for viewing and distributing numerous images of child pornography, sometimes while on duty. Strohm pleaded guilty in July 2019 to possession and distribution of child pornography.