Pubdate: Wed, 23 Aug 2006
Source: Alameda Times-Star, The (CA)
Copyright: 2006 ANG Newspapers
Author: Kristin Bender, Staff Writer
Bookmark: (Drug Test)
Bookmark: (Heroin)
Bookmark: (Methamphetamine)


Former Berkeley Police Sergeant's Case At Issue

BERKELEY -- The Berkeley Police Review Commission is investigating 
whether the department properly handled the internal affairs probe of 
a former police sergeant who admitted to stealing heroin and 
methamphetamine from the department's evidence locker.

A police review commission subcommittee met for a third Monday to 
discuss the timeline for the investigation, which should be completed 
by December, said police commission officer Victoria Urbi.

In January, the police department's internal affairs unit began 
investigating Sgt. Cary Kent, who was in charge of the drug evidence 
locker, when an audit turned up "procedural irregularities" among the evidence.

Kent, who worked for the department for 18 years, resigned his post 
in March rather than cooperate with the internal affairs probe.

He later pleaded guilty to one count of grand theft by embezzlement 
and one count each of possessing heroin and methamphetamine, and was 
sentenced to a year in an electronic home detention program. No 
criminal cases were compromised because of the drug mishandling, police said.

It was determined that 182 evidence envelopes had been tampered with 
and there was 14.3 grams of missing heroin, according to the police report.

Kent, 52, is undergoing treatment for drug addiction and will spend 
five years on probation.

The police review commission subcommittee will meet three more times 
before it holds a public workshop on Oct. 7. On that Saturday, the 
public can meet with police review commissioners and comment on the 
report or suggest possible gaps in the department's investigation, Urbi said.

"We are looking into the case to determine if the investigation was 
done correctly, if it was objective, neutral, if they asked all the 
right questions, if Kent was treated differently," she said.

"One of the big questions was why they didn't search his home," 
Advertisementshe added.

At the Oct. 7 meeting, a narcotics expert will speak about the 
physical signs of heroin use and a city representative will discuss 
why Berkeley does not drug test its employees. A department liaison 
will discuss potential changes to the handling of drug evidence.

Officer Ed Galvan, department spokesman, said the investigation was a 
"balancing act between being open with the public and protecting the 
officer's rights during the investigation."

After the incident was discovered, the California Commission on Peace 
Officers Standards and Training, a state run group that sets police 
best practices standards, reviewed how Berkeley handles drug evidence 
and wrote a report, which will be reviewed by Chief Doug Hambleton 
and the police review commission.

Hambleton has maintained that a joint investigation by his office and 
the Alameda County District Attorney's Office found that Kent was the 
only officer involved in mishandling drug evidence.

Berkeley Copwatch has for several months lobbied for further 
investigation into Kent's crime, saying the watchdog group wants "a 
complete, open and impartial investigation into the extent of both 
Sgt. Kent's crimes and the involvement of fellow officers, 
specifically requesting disclosure of the quantity of stolen drugs."

A representative from Copwatch will make a presentation at the Oct. 7 
meeting and take questions.