A rookie Arlington County police officer was arrested yesterday on charges that he solicited a child on the Internet, police officials said.

Patrick Sherman, 26, was charged with a felony that carries a maximum penalty of five years in prison and a $2,500 fine. He was taken into custody at his home in the 1100 block of South Thomas Street in Arlington.

Sherman, a June graduate of the county's police academy, was suspended without pay pending an internal investigation, said Matthew Martin, a police spokesman. He said Sherman was released from custody yesterday on $1,500 bond.

The investigation into Sherman's online activities began early last month, Martin said, when he came to the attention of investigators working with the Northern Virginia-D.C. Internet Crimes Against Children task force. Sherman allegedly made contact with an Alexandria detective on the task force who was using the fictitious online profile of a young teenage girl.

During the online contact, Sherman allegedly engaged in sexually explicit conversations.

"Bottom line, the message here is that no one is above the law," Arlington Police Chief Douglas Scott said yesterday. "If we develop anyone as a suspect, we don't care who they are; they will be held accountable like anyone else."

Scott said the task force learned almost immediately that Sherman was a police officer.

Throughout the investigation, Scott said, Sherman remained on the job, working in a patrol car with a field training supervisor, a fellow officer who rides with new hires during their first few months to help acclimate them to the job.

"He has not worked a day on the street by himself, and that's one of the things that gave me comfort while he was under investigation, knowing that he was under supervision the entire time," Scott said. He said there is no evidence that Sherman used the Internet while at work or that any of the alleged conversations occurred while he was on duty.

Until yesterday, Sherman was assigned to the midnight shift, which ends about 7 a.m.

The department is a member of the multi-jurisdictional task force, a federally funded effort composed of investigators from several Northern Virginia, D.C. and federal law enforcement agencies.