Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Drug Inquiry Spurs Investigation of Police

The Daily Californian

by Ryan McDonald

At least one Berkeley police officer is under criminal investigation in connection with discrepancies between the Berkeley Police Department's drug evidence records and inventory, police said.

According to a report released by the department Friday, a review of drug evidence handling ordered by Berkeley police Chief Doug Hambleton on Jan. 6 revealed procedural irregularities.

The investigation was launched on Friday by the Alameda County District Attorney's Office in response to the report.

The review indicated that drug evidence held in storage at police headquarters at 2100 Martin Luther King Jr. Way did not match records of the evidence, said Berkeley police Officer Ed Galvan.

Police would not elaborate on the type or amount of drugs involved in the discrepancies.
Galvan said the exact number and identities of officers under investigation is confidential due t
o the ongoing criminal investigation.

Hambleton requested that the district attorney's office investigate the department to insure an objective and thorough inspection, police said.

"When we (on-duty Berkeley police officers) get into a car accident, we don't write the report ourselves," Galvan said. "We will bring in the California Highway Patrol or another group as an outside agency. It's the same sort of situation."

Hambleton has instructed police officers to cooperate fully with the investigation, according to a statement issued by the department on Friday.

The process of reviewing stored evidence is relatively common in the department, and was not prompted by any prior allegations, Galvan said. He said this particular review was initiated because a number of officers had recently been reassigned within the department.

"It's just a set of checks and balances," Galvan said. "The department does it whenever we move people around."

Evidence is traditionally stored by police to be used while investigating open cases and for undercover work, Galvan said. Drugs are stored in special cases with the other evidence, he said.

The Internal Affairs Bureau of the police department launched a simultaneous investigation on Friday focusing on potential violations of departmental procedure in connection with the evidence discrepancies, Galvan said.

The district attorney's investigation, meanwhile, will examine possible criminal actions by the police officers.

There has been no word yet from the district attorney or police department on possible disciplinary actions for officers involved.

The Pleasant Hill law firm Rains, Lucia and Wilkinson, which is representing the Berkeley Police Association in the criminal investigation, did not return calls for comment.


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