Pubdate: Wed, 12 Apr 2006
Source: Alameda Times-Star, The (CA)
Copyright: 2006 ANG Newspapers
Author: Kristin Bender, Staff Writer


BERKELEY -- The city's Copwatch group is calling on the Berkeley 
Police Department to tighten its drug-handling procedures and release 
findings of its probe into a former narcotics sergeant suspected of 
stealing and using heroin from an evidence locker.

In January, the sergeant -- who this newspaper is not naming because 
he has not been arrested or charged with a crime -- was placed on 
administrative leave pending the outcome of an internal affairs probe 
and a tandem investigation by the Alameda County District Attorney's Office.

But on March 14, the sergeant retired from the department after 18 
years rather than cooperate with internal affairs, said police 
spokesman Officer Ed Galvan. Sources said the 52-year-old former 
sergeant is now in a drug treatment program in Contra Costa County.

Galvan said the department's investigation determined there was 
mishandling of drug evidence last year. "There was evidence that was 
unaccounted for," he said.

Galvan did not release further details because the case is being 
reviewed by the district attorney. He did say no criminal cases were 
compromised because drug evidence was mishandled.

The former sergeant is represented by attorney Harry Stern from 
Rains, Lucia and Wilkinson in Pleasant Hill. Stern, who was not 
available for comment Tuesday, has been in talks with the district 
attorney's office about a plea agreement for his client, sources said.

What charges he could face were not clear Tuesday.

But Andrea Prichett of Berkeley Copwatch said her Advertisementgroup 
wants the department to release details about the case and 
investigate the other four officers who had access to the evidence 
locker when the tampering occurred.

"It seems to me policies were violated or were inadequate to preserve 
the integrity of the drug vault," Prichett said. "I'm very curious to 
find out how they plan to prevent future occurrences."

Galvan said Tuesday the officers have been questioned, and they did 
not tamper with or mishandle drugs. The mishandling was committed by 
one staff member in the last half of 2005, he said.

Police said the stolen drugs were from inactive cases and headed for 
destruction. But Prichett, who said it is her understanding 181 
evidence envelopes were tampered with, questions that theory.

Galvan said the department has tightened drug-handling procedures. 
Chief Doug Hambleton also has requested that the California 
Commission on Peace Officers Standard of Training review how Berkeley 
handles drug evidence and if changes should be made.

Until the commission comes back with its findings, a temporary policy 
requires two officers to sign out drug evidence headed for court.
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