Reports say the officer in question was San Mateo PD's Robert Davies.
In 2018, A CT man was caught by a group called POPSquad, which lured him to meet up with a 14-year-old boy they had posed as on a dating app and posted a video of the encounter onto their Facebook page of more than 17,000 followers.
Using a Snapchat filter that uses augmented reality to overlay gendered facial features on a selfie, Ethan, 20, made an account of himself appearing as a girl and gave himself the name "Esther". Police say that Ethan was able to research Davies after their conversations and determine his identity.
He also told the Bay Area news outlet that he pressed Davies for bits of information that would help to identify him in a crime. The student then sent screengrabs of the conversations - taken in Airplane Mode because Snapchat alerts you when a screenshot taken - to Crime Stoppers, according to NBC Bay Area.
Screen shots of the conversation that were obtained by NBC Bay Area show that Rob initially told Esther that her age "might be an issue".
I was just looking to get someone. Ethan screen-grabbed the dialogue and turned it over to local police. "It just happened to be a cop".
The screenshots, which Ethan described as "explicit", lead to Davies' arrest last week on suspicion of discussing sexual activity with a minor on social media.
Davies faces a charge of contacting a minor to commit a felony. It wasn't clear from court records if he has an attorney.
San Jose police, who later reviewed screenshots of the conversation, reportedly told NBC that Davies was not concerned that he was speaking explicitly to someone he believed to be 16.
"This alleged conduct, if true, is in no way a reflection of all that we stand for as a Department, and is an affront to the tenets of our department and our profession as a whole", wrote San Mateo Police Chief Susan Manheimer. It's unclear whether any graduated to outright catfishing - a common romance scam in which people create fake personas to trick their targets into online relationships.
"I believe he messaged me, 'Are you down to have some fun tonight?' and I chose to take advantage of it", Ethan told NBC.