PRC Reviews Police Policies in Case of Stolen Drug Evidence

By Judith Scherr
Tuesday May 30, 2006

The Police Review Commission on Wednesday established a subcommittee to review police policies related to the case of convicted felon Sgt. Cary Kent, who stole drugs from the police evidence vault of which he was in charge. 

At the same meeting the commission voted not to hear a complaint by CopWatch leader Andrea Pritchett, who asked the commission to broaden the investigation into the stolen drug evidence by looking at the four other officers who had access to the drug evidence during the same period as Kent. 

Prichett’s complaint was turned down (6–0–1, with Commissioner Annie Chung abstaining and Commissioners Sherry Smith and Danny Herrera absent) because the commission said Prichett was a third party, not directly injured by the offense she wanted investigated.  

However, Prichett’s complaint sparked discussion on the commission that resulted in the establishment of a subcommittee to review the Kent investigation with the goal of proposing new police policies. 

Commission staff Dan Silva argued it was premature to set up the subcommittee, contending the commission should wait until the state Commission on Peace Officer Standards and Training (POST) had completed its study of the Berkeley Police Department and made its recommendations based on policy questions arising from the Cary Kent case. 

The commission, however, overruled Silva, voting 5–1, with Jack Radisch in opposition, in favor of setting up the subcommittee. 

“I feel we need to do more investigating. One month ago a lot of people at the meeting were seeking answers,” said Commission Chair Annie Chung, arguing in favor of setting up the subcommittee. “It’s really important to show we have taken active steps to look into this further. Others in the public want us to do something about it, rather than let things be as they are.” 

Commissioner William White agreed. “We want to make sure this issue is not swept under the rug silently,” he said. 

White pointed out that similar crimes happen in other police departments throughout the country. “We want Berkeley to be forthcoming,” he said. We want policies to avoid this behavior in the future.” 

“This case was a wake-up call,” added Commissioner Sharon Kidd. “We need to move forward so that it doesn’t happen again.” 

The POST review of police operations and policies that may have permitted the drug evidence theft has already begun, said Police Chief Doug Hambleton in a phone interview Thursday. 

POST has visited the department twice and will likely come one more time before making its recommendations, he said. Once POST releases its proposals, the chief said, he would work with his staff internally and then work with the PRC on policy recommendations. 

The police investigation into the Kent case is available for public review at the police department records division.