Attleboro’s police chief is pushing for drug testing of his officers after news broke that drugs went missing from the department’s evidence room, the Boston Herald reports, and he is asking for help on Beacon Hill.
No Attleboro drug arrests have been made yet, but the chief has been investigating, despite a “code of silence,” from within the department. The chief thinks drug testing could have prevented cocaine and other narcotics from being stolen and also will ensure it doesn’t happen again.
Our Attleboro criminal defense lawyers understand law enforcement officers are sometimes far from perfect. In this case, at least one officer is guilty of an Attleboro theft crime, and one involving drugs, no less.
It calls into question the ethics of the officers working in that department. The fact that some officers are potentially criminals and are being paid to investigate crimes is a big concern. Another issue concerns the credibility of the rest of the evidence in that locker room. How can defendants be sure that evidence intended to try to put them in jail or prison hasn’t been tampered with by officers?
The flip side of that coin is that, once accused, officers are even less likely to get the benefit of the doubt and an aggressive defense will be required. A conviction of any charge will almost certainly result in job loss and could end their career.
Drug testing for officers must be implemented through collective bargaining with unions. So the police chief is calling on lawmakers to create bills that would mandate random drug testing for public safety officials.
Attleboro and its police union are currently negotiating how to implement random drug testing. The police chief says officers are asking for pay raises if they are to submit to random drug testing, which is difficult to do.
Experts believe that unsolved police drug theft cases can ruin public trust in a police department, which can prove difficult for officers to overcome. In 2003, $80,000 worth of marijuana was stolen from a police storage facility in Dracut. Two officers were accused of being “intentionally deceptive” and were suspended last year. In 2006, Boston police found that in hundreds of cases drug evidence was stolen. Yet no one was arrested.
Some suggest that drug testing isn’t the issue, but rather theft in Attleboro at the police department should be the focus. While video surveillance and a better electronic coding system are positive steps in the right direction, the story shows that police can be just as culpable as the defendants they arrest.
If the drugs that were stolen were used, they are out of the users system by now. Drug testing won’t show who stole those drugs. The bottom line is that officers are stealing from their own department and evidence is being compromised. The Herald article also doesn’t state which evidence was stolen.
It will be interesting to see from what cases the drugs were stolen and what is happening to those cases.
Massachusetts Criminal Lawyer Michael DelSignore represents clients facing serious misdemeanor and felony charges throughout the state.
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