Pubdate: Mon, 29 May 2017
Source: Hamilton Spectator (CN ON)
Copyright: 2017 The Hamilton Spectator
Author: Susan Clairmont
Page: A1


At least 30 cases linked to drugs missing from a storage locker likely
will be dropped, setting accused dealers free

A Halton cop who spent years taking drugs off the street is facing
five criminal charges after prescription opioids were stolen from a
police evidence locker.

At least 30 cases connected to the missing drugs likely will be
dropped because of the evidence-tampering, setting accused dealers

Staff Sgt. Brad Murray was in charge of the Drug and Morality Unit at
the Halton Regional Police Service (HRPS) and had authorization to
access the locked storage area where all drugs seized by the service
were kept and catalogued.

He was a high-profile member of the unit from its creation in January
2013 to May 2016. The thefts are alleged to have happened during that
time span.

On Sunday the 16-year veteran was arrested and charged with two counts
of theft under $5,000, two counts of breach of trust and one count of
obstructing justice.

The case "violates public trust in the work we do and is an affront to
the Canadian justice system as a whole," Halton police Chief Stephen
Tanner says in a media release.

"As such, we are committed to dealing with this issue transparently
and thoroughly."

In an interview with The Spectator, Tanner said there is no evidence
the highly addictive stolen prescription opioids, which include
OxyContin, have made their way back out onto the street or have "been
sold for profit."

Barry Hughes, president of the Halton Regional Police Association,
said Murray "is entitled to the presumption of innocence as would any
other person facing charges in court."

"It wouldn't be proper for me to comment on the matter as it's before
the courts."

The country is facing a devastating and deadly opioid addiction
crisis, with many becoming hooked on the painkillers after they are
prescribed by doctors following events like back injuries or knee surgery.

Murray has made an impressive career waging a war against

On his very first solo patrol shift in November 2001 he made the pages
of The Spectator by landing a substantial marijuana seizure during a
routine traffic stop.

By 2003 Murray was already working a plainclothes detail, a quick rise
for a young cop. In 2013 he was tapped to join the newly launched
integrated drug, gun and gang unit.

A year later he was running the unit, which expanded to include human
trafficking investigations.

In March 2016, during the time the seized drugs were going missing and
just two months before Murray left the unit, he talked to The
Spectator about the pain medication addiction sweeping the area.

He said tightened protocols for prescribing opioids were making it
harder for addicts to get their drugs of choice, causing a spike in
pharmacy robberies and the appearance of bootleg versions of the
drugs, including Fentanyl.

"Now those people are finding it hard to get the drugs legitimately,"
he said.

"We have to find better strategies with doctors, pharmacists and
including police to build an engagement model to help these people at
a critical stage when they are coming off the opioids that they feel
so desperate to commit these robberies."

On his personal Twitter account, Murray several times retweeted media
stories about opioid addiction and how it takes over lives.

At about the time Murray left the unit, the HRPS was leading and
promoting a "Prescription Drug Drop-Off Day," which encouraged members
of the public to drop-off old and unused prescription medications at
various locations, including Halton police stations.

"Spring Cleaning?? Safeguard your home by dropping off your unused and
unwanted prescription drugs," Murray tweeted on April 9, 2016.

The thefts Murray is accused of will almost certainly jeopardize 30 or
more cases. Already "a number of drug-related trials have been stayed
by the prosecution," says the police media release. "The full
ramifications of this situation as it relates to court prosecutions
and potential withdrawal of charges will not be known for some time."

The Halton Crown's office previously sent letters to defence lawyers
about the investigation into the missing drugs.

Concerns about that were raised in court as far back as January when
Justice Stephen Brown, presiding over a drug case, said the
uncertainty of the probe "potentially taints every

The probe might also put many ongoing cases past the newly established
timelines laid out by the Supreme Court's R v. Jordan.

That decision says a case should be thrown out if the time between
arrest and end of trial exceeds 18 months in provincial court and 30
in Superior court.

Murray is now suspended with pay, the only option available to
Ontario's police chiefs under contentious legislation that does not
allow for pay to be withheld.

The investigation was sparked after a "drug exhibit anomaly was
discovered" by members of the drug squad last fall, according to Tanner.

That led the chief to request an audit of the 2,000-plus items in the
drug exhibit inventory by two civilian members of his service.

The audit revealed at least 30 exhibits had been compromised.

Tanner asked Toronto police to conduct a criminal investigation, which
began in December.

"In light of the findings and going forward, the Drug and Morality
Unit has implemented additional measures to preserve the integrity of
all seized drug exhibits," said Tanner.

"I am confident in the security of our service's drugs exhibits and
that no other cases or types of drugs are in question."

The drug lock-up is at the Oakville station where the drug unit is

But once the new HRPS HQ is completed, the storage area will move into
the new building.

Murray is to make his first appearance in court on June 27 at the
provincial courthouse in Milton.

Tanner said the service's Professional Standards Bureau will now
conduct a Police Services Act investigation that could result in
disciplinary charges and dismissal.
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