Rudy Silvain was at an elderly friend's home when San Bernardino County sheriff's deputies arrived Thursday afternoon to serve a search warrant. Silv

SAN BERNARDINO - A supervisor at the city's inaugural Operation Phoenix community center was arrested Thursday on suspicion of molesting a child there, jolting leaders who hail the facility as a crucial component to their holistic crime-fighting plan.

Detectives jailed Michael Miller, a former San Bernardino police volunteer, only hours after the city put him on administrative leave.

The 48-year-old Highland resident turned in his keys to the youth center at 16th Street and Sierra Way before being arrested in Redlands.
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Although doors stayed open Thursday -- with children listening to music and sifting through crayons -- some activities were postponed as officials dealt with the arrest.

"This is a shock in the extreme," said Mayor Pat Morris, who created Operation Phoenix around tenets of crime suppression, intervention and prevention, the last of which involves opening community centers for underprivileged youth.

Morris and his staff put Miller in charge of recreation programs at the center after it opened in its permanent location last year.

Children as young as 5 years old could learn crafts, take literacy classes and play sports.

"I think we have to keep this in perspective; this is an incident involving an individual," Morris said. "As far as we knew, he was a healthy, qualified and well-trained professional with all the right motivations and instincts."

Police learned of the possible molestation Monday, said San Bernardino police Lt. Scott Paterson. The child's age and sex were not released.

Wednesday night, detectives obtained search warrants for the Operation Phoenix center and Miller's home near the Highland/San Bernardino line.

Paterson would not say what evidence was recovered.

Investigation continued through Thursday, and Paterson said there no was indication whether the allegation was isolated or part of a larger pattern.

The case will be submitted to the district attorney's office for review early next week.

No one would comment Thursday at the suspect's home, a light blue stucco house with dark trim and an American flag flying on an outside pole.

A sign hanging outside read, "The Millers - Mike and Debbie."

A sport utility vehicle pulled up, a man asked a reporter to leave and "The Millers" sign was taken down from the front of the home.

Nine Years With City

Miller has been with the city for nine years, serving as a Police Department volunteer as well as a community service supervisor.

Jim Morris, the mayor's chief of staff, said he had a hands-on role with a small staff of aides.

In an interview for the opening of the second Operation Phoenix center earlier this year, Miller trumpeted the projects as "safe havens," and said he gives his cell phone number out to children and takes an active role in their lives.

"The community develops a trust in you," Miller said in May.

The Rev. David Rhone, pastor of the First Church of the Nazarene, which donated a former sanctuary building for the Operation Phoenix Center, said no neighborhood parents had asked Thursday about the allegations against Miller.

"I have deep sympathy ... and I hope that the allegations are not true," Rhone said.

Miller was expected to be booked late Friday into the Central Detention Center in San Bernardino. Bail and arraignment information were not immediately available.

Anyone with information on the case is asked to call detectives at 909-384-5717.

Staff writers Chris Richard and Dan Lee contributed to this report.

Reach Paul LaRocco at 909-806-3064 or plarocco@PE.com

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