West Valley officer accused of taking morphine from dead cancer patient

Published: Wednesday, July 10 2013 9:05 p.m. MDT

Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News

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WEST VALLEY CITY — A West Valley police officer is being investigated of accusations that he took morphine from a deceased cancer patient's home.

The officer, who resigned, is being investigated for theft and drug possession by the Cottonwood Heights Police Department. Salt Lake County District Attorney Sim Gill confirmed Wednesday that criminal charges are being considered and could be announced as early as Monday.

The officer, a 10-year-veteran of the department who has not been identified, was on patrol June 6 when officers were called to a home where a man's family had found him deceased, said Cottonwood Heights Police Chief Robby Russo.

The accused officer pocketed 22 morphine tablets that had been prescribed to the man to alleviate suffering in his final days, Russo said. Another officer witnessed the alleged theft, and contacted a supervisor who came to the home.

"They confronted this officer, retrieved the medication and relieved him of duty," Russo said.

The officer resigned the next day.

West Valley Deputy Police Chief Mike Powell issued a statement expressing disappointment at the officer's alleged actions and praising his fellow officers and supervisors.

The case will also be reviewed by the Police Officers Standards and Training board, which has the option of stripping the officer of his certification, Russo said.

"We have to hold ourselves to a higher standard," the chief said. "This reflects poorly on the entire profession, so we are so pleased that the backup officer had the integrity to bring this forward."

Russo praised the West Valley Police Department for petitioning an independent investigation "given the current climate." The department has come under scrutiny in the past year for the officer-involved shooting death of 21-year-old Danielle Willard, as well as investigations of corruption within the department that led to the dissolution of its Neighborhood Narcotics Unit.

Email: mromero@deseretnews.com

Twitter: McKenzieRomero

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