Santa Monica's Dark Secrets Exposed: The Thin Blue Line's Protection of a Serial Child Molester
Written by: Sam Orlando
SANTA MONICA, Calif. — Eric Uller, a long-time civilian employee of the Santa Monica Police Department, has been revealed as a sexual predator who systematically preyed on children during his tenure as a volunteer in the Police Activities League (PAL) program, raising significant concerns over the authorities' failure to detect his crimes. Over 200 victims have now bravely come forward to share their stories, shedding light on the devastating impact of Uller's actions and prompting intense scrutiny of the city's handling of the case.
Uller, known for his technological innovations and recognized with awards for his public service, exploited his role within PAL, a nonprofit after-school program for underprivileged boys and girls, to carry out a series of sexual offenses over a span of nearly three decades. Most of his victims were Latino boys between the ages of 8 and 15 from Santa Monica's marginalized Pico neighborhood. Court documents and interviews with victims and their attorneys reveal a disturbing pattern of abuse facilitated by Uller's manipulation and use of his police connections.
John AM Doe, who accused Uller of repeated rape and sexual abuse, described how Uller would bribe him and other boys with money, baseball cards, and tickets to sporting events, as reported by Brian Claypool, an attorney representing more than 80 victims. Uller, traveling in police vehicles, including an unmarked car, used his position of authority and trust to exploit vulnerable children, who often believed he was an actual police officer.
In a recent interview, John AM Doe, who requested anonymity due to the sensitive nature of the crimes, recounted his experiences: "Everyone thought he was a police officer," he said, referring to Uller. John Doe 4, another victim, was first molested by Uller when he was 11 years old under the pretense of a physical exam needed for sports participation. The abuse continued for two years, according to court documents.
Investigations have revealed numerous instances where warnings about Uller's behavior were either dismissed or went unheeded by authorities. A Santa Monica police sergeant initiated an investigation between 1991 and 1993 after observing suspicious interactions between Uller and a boy, as detailed in a 2018 Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department report reviewed by The New York Times. Another PAL employee reported an incident involving Uller to Santa Monica police Officer Jay Trisler, who was assigned to the PAL program at the time. However, no action was taken against Uller. Additional accounts from former city employees and a female detective in the sheriff's juvenile unit indicated concerns about Uller's behavior, but their warnings were similarly disregarded or deemed outside the scope of their responsibilities.
According to court documents, the Santa Monica Police Department's communications center received a complaint regarding Uller viewing child pornography on a work computer. Although an internal investigation was conducted, it did not result in any charges or disciplinary actions against Uller. Former Santa Monica police Lt. Greg Slaughter reported witnessing Uller driving young boys around the city and expressed concern over his use of an unmarked police vehicle. However, Uller continued his abuses without consequence.
The shocking extent of Uller's crimes came to light in 2018 when he was arrested on suspicion of molesting four boys during the early 1990s, with six additional victims subsequently coming forward. However, before facing justice, Uller died by suicide in his Marina del Rey apartment on the day of his scheduled court appearance.
In the wake of Uller's death, the Santa Monica Police Department referred allegations of negligence in reporting his abuses to the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department. While no charges have been filed, the incident has sparked an intense debate regarding the institutional failures that allowed Uller's abuse to persist for decades.
Santa Monica, known for its commitment to progressivism, now finds itself grappling with the profound failure to protect its most vulnerable residents. City officials have expressed deep sorrow and a commitment to rectify the failures of the past. Mayor Gleam Davis has emphasized the city's efforts to implement comprehensive child protection measures, revise program protocols, and enforce stringent background checks for individuals involved in youth programs.
The impact of Uller's abuse on the survivors and their families cannot be overstated. Many victims have endured significant emotional and psychological trauma, leading to a range of long-lasting consequences, including strained relationships, educational disruptions, and involvement with the criminal justice system. While the historic settlement of $229.285 million reached by the city aims to provide some measure of financial redress, it cannot undo the pain and suffering endured by the survivors.
The profound breach of trust and the magnitude of Uller's crimes demand a thorough examination of the systemic failures that allowed his abuse to persist. The Santa Monica Police Department, city officials, and PAL management must be held accountable for their negligence and their failure to protect the innocent children under their care.
Moving forward, it is imperative that Santa Monica takes concrete steps to rebuild public trust and restore confidence in its commitment to safeguarding children. This includes implementing robust oversight mechanisms, fostering a culture of transparency, and prioritizing the well-being and safety of vulnerable populations. The voices of the survivors must remain at the forefront of the city's response, with their needs and experiences guiding the path toward healing and reform.
The legacy of Eric Uller's crimes will forever cast a dark shadow over Santa Monica. The city now faces a defining moment in which it must confront its failures head-on, acknowledge the immense harm caused, and take decisive action to prevent such horrific abuses from occurring in the future. Only through sustained efforts to address the systemic failures, support the survivors, and implement comprehensive reforms can Santa Monica begin to heal the wounds inflicted by Uller's reprehensible acts and ensure the safety and well-being of its most vulnerable residents.