Pubdate: Fri, 13 Dec 2013
Source: Star-News (Wilmington, NC)
Copyright: 2013 Wilmington Morning Star
Bookmark: (Corruption - United States)


As a rule, the public holds law enforcement officers in high regard. 
Most live up to that standard. But when a cop sullies the uniform by 
breaking laws he was sworn to uphold, he betrays the people who put 
their trust in him.

The case of former New Hanover County vice and narcotics Lt. Joey 
LeBlanc is a reminder that police are human and subject to the same 
demons that tempt the rest of us. He faces 122 charges involving 
drugs, embezzlement, obtaining property by false pretenses, and 
altering or destroying evidence.

The charges stem from allegations that LeBlanc, who was assistant 
commander of the vice and narcotics unit, used his position to obtain drugs.

In the process, according to investigators, he forged the signatures 
of an assistant district attorney and Senior Resident Superior Court 
Judge W. Allen Cobb. In addition, the district attorney has been 
forced to drop charges against nine defendants because LeBlanc's 
actions tainted the cases against them. That's a lot of work by 
officers down the drain.

Those are serious accusations, and if convicted he will -- and should 
- -- spend a long time in prison. His attorney has portrayed LeBlanc as 
someone whose addiction got the better of him. According to his 
lawyer, he became addicted to prescription painkillers after an injury at work.

His lawyer also said in court Monday that even after LeBlanc's family 
managed to persuade him to enter a rehabilitation facility, he was 
returned to his job in the sheriff's vice and narcotics unit, where 
he had access to the same type of drugs that fueled his original addiction.

Sheriff Ed McMahon issued a response on Tuesday saying he had no 
knowledge that LeBlanc spent time in rehab, and that he denied having 
sought treatment when asked directly about rumors to that effect a 
few months before he was fired in June. His termination was the 
result of failing a random drug test; previous tests had been clean.

If he is convicted, LeBlanc's admitted addiction likely will be taken 
into account -- although it must be noted that many people who reside 
in our state prisons are there also in large part because of a 
substance abuse problem. Nevertheless, visiting Superior Court Judge 
Jack Jenkins showed some compassion toward the deputy, suggesting 
that if LeBlanc completes a residential rehabilitation he might be 
inclined to lower the $500,000 bail he set.

LeBlanc's arrest has led the sheriff to take another look at the vice 
unit to prevent the types of transgressions of which the former 
narcotics officer is accused. More frequent rotations and better 
checks and balances on evidence gathering are among the latest improvements.

But all the changes in the world will not erase the damage that 
LeBlanc's arrest has done to the reputation of the sheriff's office 
and the vice unit. By most accounts, LeBlanc was a good law 
enforcement officer before prescription drugs took over.

Which makes his fall that much sadder. But every time a law officer 
is charged with a crime, the public's faith in an agency entrusted to 
obey as well as enforce the laws is shaken -- and that is arguably 
the most tragic outcome of this unfortunate situation.
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