LOS BANOS, CA – Los Banos Police Officer Dusty Norris was arrested May 18, 2016 and charged by the Merced County District Attorney’s Office with multiple sex offenses which are alleged to have occurred while he was working as a high school teacher for Los Banos Unified School District, prior to becoming a police officer. According to investigators with the District Attorney’s Investigations Division, the crimes came to light during the Los Banos Police Department’s investigation of another Los Banos High School teacher, Gary Bettencourt. Bettencourt has also been charged with multiple sex offenses and his criminal case is currently proceeding through the courts.
Norris, 37, worked as a High School ROP Construction Tech Instructor during the 2004 to 2007 school years. He began working for the Los Banos Police Department in 2007, becoming a full time sworn police officer in 2008. It is alleged that during his years as a high school instructor he had sexual contact with multiple high school aged girls who were students in his classes.
When the allegations first came to light, the Los Banos Police Department placed Norris on administrative leave and asked the Merced County District Attorney’s Office to conduct the investigation. During a lengthy investigation, D.A. investigators interviewed numerous witnesses, served search warrants and collected evidence, all of which substantiated the allegations.
“It is never a good thing for law enforcement to have to investigate one of its own,” Chief Deputy District Attorney Harold Nutt said. “We like to believe that police officers are above reproach and we are certain that the overwhelming majority are. However, occasionally it happens that one may engage in criminal behavior. Both the District Attorney’s office and the Los Banos Police Department have taken these allegations very seriously, as we always do.” Nutt said. “Children should be able to learn in a safe and non-threatening environment. For that reason, we will vigorously investigate and prosecute those who violate the trust placed upon them by society.”
Jason Hedden, acting Los Banos Chief of Police said “As a Police Department, we hold ourselves to a higher standard and we want the public to know that we are committed to the safety of those who live in and visit the City of Los Banos. It is for that reason we asked the District Attorney’s Office to investigate these allegations.” Acting Chief Hedden also stated that “this is a continuing investigation and a personnel matter and as such our agency cannot provide further details. All questions should be directed to the District Attorney’s Office.”