A story out of Maine points out a real problem in law enforcement – our reliance on the good character of our police officers and what can happen when their reputation is besmirched.
The facts of the case are that a Maine Drug Enforcement Agency (MDEA) Officer was charged with abusing drugs. (Side note: MDEA is also the abbreviation for an illegal hallucinogen with the street name “Eve.”) The officer, Kirk Guerrette is alleged to have taken a three month supply (360) Ambien in less than two weeks as well as trying to pass bogus prescriptions to get more drugs.
Since one of the side effects of Ambien is memory loss, and since the alleged drug abuse wasn’t mentioned when Officer Guerrette obtained a warrant in a recent case, the question is whether his affidavit should hold up in court. The larger question is how reliable can testimony be when the arresting officer is found to be a substance abuser?
In this case, there are 44 other matters in which this officer was the lead investigator – should all those be reexamined or retried? One affidavit filed against the officer claims, “His friendship and badge of authority allowed him to bypass normal channels of the pharmacy. During 2008 alone he acquired over 2,500 pills in a 90-day period.”
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Obviously, criminal investigations are not a one-man operation. But the system as it exists now gives a lot of latitude to the principal officer and defense attorneys are quick to jump on any flaw found. And we do want a fair legal system.
When an officer seeks a warrant, he or she has to swear to the facts that form the basis for the warrant. These usually amount to, “I saw; I witnessed,” or something similar. If the warrant is faulty, the search and the arrests that follow have a real chance of being thrown out. This is why the police are held to such a high standard.
It’s notable in this case that a drug test would have done no good. Since the officer was prescribed Ambien as a sleep aid, any positive test for the drug wouldn’t have been surprising.