PRC Begins Investigating Case of Cop Stealing Drugs

By Judith Scherr
Friday July 21, 2006

The sergeant in charge of Berkeley’s drug evidence room copped a plea earlier this year, admitting he stole drug evidence in his charge. 

But now the Police Review Commission, working through a subcommittee, is asking how a police officer, reportedly a drug abuser, could have been involved with criminal activity over months—perhaps years—without the knowledge or intervention of fellow officers.  

“We are here to look at the investigation and see if there are any shortcomings,” said Commissioner William White, subcommittee chair. 

“We need to find out if the police knew (about the problems) and overlooked it,” said Commissioner Sharon Kidd. 

The subcommittee that also includes Commissioner Sherry Smith, began its work Monday, pledging to come to a conclusion within six months. 

Each committee member will read the 900-page police report, which details an investigation carried out jointly by the Berkeley Police Department and the Alameda County District Attorney’s Office. 

Members of the public can read the document at the records bureau, at the police department at Center Street and Martin Luther King, Jr. Way; the document can be purchased for about $84. 

Subcommittee members reported they had just begun to read the report, but Kidd said it already raised red flags. 

“Why didn’t they put (Kent) on administrative leave without pay until he had the physical?” she asked, referring to the findings in the report that indicated Kent put off having a mandatory physical for months.  

The subcommittee also plans to: 

• Speak with an expert in the field of drug abuse, learning in particular about how the department may have missed signs of Kent’s reported heroin and methamphetamine abuse; 

• Work with, to the degree possible, Police Officers’ Standards and Training, a Sacramento-based agency that has evaluated the Berkeley police’s drug evidence procedures and will be reporting to the BPD on its findings in August; 

• Read publications dealing with drug abuse in police departments, particularly the work of Tom Mieczkowski of the University of Florida; 

• Work with the police chief and a liaison with the department who has been close to the investigation; 

• Look at the question of drug-testing police; learning which communities do so and under what circumstances; 

• Interview the police officer and county investigator that conducted the investigation. 

“We need to move on this in the interest of the community,” said Commissioner Kidd. 

The subcommittee will hold a community workshop in October to hear from citizens and experts. The subcommittee will meet again July 31 at 5 p.m. at 1947 Center St., 3rd floor.