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An Aberdeen Police Department lieutenant has been suspended with pay after it was discovered he allegedly tampered with drug evidence, the department announced Thursday.
The lieutenant, one of the three in the department, is an 18-year veteran of Aberdeen's police force.
The officer's name was not released because he has not been charged with a crime, Lt. Will Reiber, a department spokesperson, said. The suspension took effect Wednesday.
Adminstrative and criminal investigations have been turned over to the Maryland State Police, Reiber said.
"It provides a greater level of transparency when someone who is a high ranking member of your department is accused of a crime," Reiber said. "It will show a fair and impartial investigation."
The suspended lieutenant allegedly tampered with drug evidence, Reiber said, and it was brought to the administration's attention by a department employee.
Incidents of alleged police misconduct put a bad eye on police departments, Reiber said.
"Quite frankly, this is not something we look forward to," he said. "It's a blemish that stains all law enforcement when anyone professional, who is sworn to protect and to serve, violates the tenents of law enforcement."
Contrary to some public belief that police departments cover up internal criminal activity and "protect their own," that's not the case, Reiber said.
"When you find someone engaged in potential illegal activity, it reflects badly on all law enforcement, when it's not what you, and 99 percent of all law enforcement believe in." he said of the suspension. "It's not a hard decision, there's not hesitation to take action."
"It shows the men and women who serve the department, who serve the citizens of Aberdeen, are being held accountable," he added.
Reiber would not comment on the details of the alleged drug tampering, citing the ongoing investigations, which he said are "in their infancy."
If the lieutenant is charged, the department will re-evaluate whether his suspension is paid or unpaid, Reiber said, stressing that the Aberdeen Police Department is not going to hide any of the findings.
"If it arises to the level of criminal charges, we will make it public," he said.
"This is a sad day, not for the person who committed the act, but that the person who is entrusted in his position tarnished himself and the department he serves," Reiber said.