BYLINE: DAVID M. SCHWARTZ,
Southampton Town Police Department in Hampton Bays. (May 17, 2012)
Photo credit: Randee Daddona
Crack, marijuana, prescription painkillers and other drugs tied to a controversial Southampton Police Department drug unit are missing, according to a union representative, prompting an internal investigation.
"The union has been made aware there is an investigation in reference to missing narcotics from the property room," said Det. Kevin Gwinn, vice president of the Town Patrolmen's Benevolent Association. "The current chief of police is conducting his own complete audit of the property room."
The revelation is the latest involving the disbanded unit that prompted the Suffolk district attorney's office to dismiss convictions against three individuals. Last week, the union petitioned the town board to allow Officer Eric Sickles, a unit member who was addicted to prescription painkillers, to return to work.
Former Chief William Wilson, who retired late last year, said that Sickles' supervisors, including Lt. James Kiernan and current Chief Robert Pearce, failed to act promptly after learning of Sickles' addiction and allowed him to return to duty with only a doctor's note.
Pearce was not available for comment Wednesday, and his office said he was not expected until Monday. Kiernan's attorney, Ray Perini, declined to comment.
A law enforcement source said the missing drugs were related to the disbanded Southampton Street Crime unit, which investigated drug crimes in the town. They had been inside a box marked "street crimes investigation," according to the source.
Pearce on Monday asked to review the box, after photos of the office taken in February 2012 were published by the weekly Southampton Press newspaper.
It was then that the drugs were discovered missing, though some items that could be used as training props, like crack pipes, were still inside, according to the source, speaking on condition of anonymity.
In 2012, then-chief Wilson said he found drugs and potential evidence -- including cash, crack pipes, marijuana and prescription pills -- in desk drawers and filing cabinets in the Street Crime unit's office. It was secured with a keypad lock, but janitorial staff and police supervisors had access to the room.
Wilson told Newsday earlier this month that he treated the room "like a homicide scene."At Wilson's direction, he sent 37 items to the Suffolk County crime lab. Gwinn said Theresa Tedesco, the officer in charge of the property room was assigned there because of "outstanding performance and attention to detail in her 23-year career."
He said Tedesco is on vacation, but added that in her five years in the property division, she has logged in more than 3,000 evidentiary items.
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