WA: Seattle officer investigated for illegally buying, using oxycodone resigns from department, city’s police watchdog says

A Seattle police training instructor accused of illegally buying prescription painkillers and possibly using them on the job resigned from the department this year before interim Chief Adrian Diaz had the chance to fire him, the city’s police watchdog announced this week.

The unidentified officer previously had avoided discipline when the Office of Police Accountability couldn’t prove drug-use allegations against him after officers stated he appeared “high” and “messed up” at work in 2019, records show.

More allegations against the officer surfaced last year, after a girl who accused her mother of abuse and neglect told a Pierce County sheriff’s detective that she witnessed her mom selling oxycodone pills to him, according to OPA records. In turn, the Pierce County agency referred the allegations to the OPA.

The officer acknowledged wrongdoing after going to rehab late last year, an OPA case summary about the latest investigation says. In February, the OPA found the officer violated policies related to truthfulness, adherence to laws, substance abuse and professionalism.

The officer “stated that he was in pain and suffered from addiction and, while he wanted to do the right thing, he couldn’t at the time,” the OPA reported this week. “The (officer) acknowledged he had violated SPD policy. He has since sought counseling and treatment for his addiction, but recognized there would be professional and disciplinary consequences for his actions.”

The officer resigned before Diaz issued a final disciplinary action report in April, which stated he would have been fired if he hadn’t quit.

The president of the Seattle Police Officers Guild did not immediately respond Friday to an email seeking comment about the case.

OPA investigators opened an intake for the case in January 2020, but waited three months to investigate the matter until the Pierce County agency neared conclusion of its own investigation and gave consent to interview the girl.

During a video call in April 2020, the girl told OPA investigators her mother had met the officer through another Seattle officer, who was a family friend. The girl said she twice witnessed her mom selling her prescribed painkillers to the officer in a Southcenter mall parking lot, the case summary says. She identified the officer by his first name, described his car and tentatively picked his picture out of a photo montage, the summary states.

In May 2020, shortly after the Pierce County Sheriff’s Department informed the OPA it was done investigating the girl’s abuse claims but wouldn’t be seeking criminal charges, OPA investigators subpoenaed the phone records of the girl’s mother. They showed the Seattle officer’s phone number had exchanged 736 text messages and had six phone calls with the woman’s phone from October 2019 to May 2020.

Investigators interviewed the woman, who said she sold oxycodone to the officer at least 10 times and that he was still in touch about buying more pills, the summary states.

Based on her statements and phone records, OPA referred the case for criminal investigation to the King County Sheriff’s Office on May 26, 2020. On Aug. 13, 2020, KCSO returned the case to OPA with a one-page report.

In his case summary, OPA Director Andrew Myerberg wrote “it does not appear” the Sheriff’s Office “did any actual investigation.” Instead, it simply cited the Pierce County sheriff’s “earlier conclusion that no charges would be filed” in the abuse case, and that a “referral to a prosecutor was not appropriate.”

“There was no indication that the KCSO screened this decision with a prosecutor,” Myerberg’s summary added.

A spokesperson for King County Sheriff Mitzi Johanknecht said Friday he wasn’t able to immediately track down details about the case to comment on it.

Shortly after OPA resumed its investigation, the officer took an extended medical leave. When he returned in November 2020, he told investigators he bought painkillers from the woman several times, the summary says. He also told investigators the pills were for his personal use and he didn’t resell them.

“He said he used the Oxycodone before going to sleep at night and did not take it before work,” the OPA reported this week. “However, since the dosage amount was unknown, it was possible that he was under the influence while at work the following day.”

The officer, who acknowledged he’d been addicted to painkillers for two to three years, admitted it was “possible” he’d been dishonest when he denied being addicted to drugs during the previous OPA investigation of him, the summary states.

During that investigation, OPA learned fellow officers had reported the officer seemed impaired and was slurring words while working two days at SPD’s training unit in 2019. Two officers drove the officer home without informing commanders, according to an OPA summary. When commanders later learned what happened, they informed OPA. After the officer claimed his condition was caused by side effects from prescribed medications, the allegations were deemed unsubstantiated.

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Tags: Opioid Crisis

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