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Veteran Providence patrolman accused of stealing jewelry from evidence room

Providence Journal,

Providence, RI

Providence Patrolman Michael McCarthy in 2012 PROVIDENCE JOURNAl FILES / KATHY BORCHERS

PROVIDENCE, R.I. — A 36-year-veteran Providence police officer is accused of stealing jewelry from the Police Department’s property and evidence room.

Patrolman Michael McCarthy, who has been assigned to the property and evidence room for several years, was charged by the Providence police Thursday with fraudulent conversion, a felony.

McCarthy appeared in District Court, where he entered no plea and was released on $5,000 personal recognizance. He is also suspended without pay from the department.

“He violated the public’s trust,” said Public Safety Commissioner Steven M. Paré. “This officer was assigned to a very sensitive function…and we’re not going to tolerate that behavior.”

The discovery of the theft — and McCarthy’s access to property and evidence — has launched an audit of the numerous items held at the department, some going back many years.

Chief Hugh T. Clements Jr. said officials don’t think that any cases have been compromised, but that only an extensive audit would tell. McCarthy didn’t have access to drugs seized by the department — and no drugs are missing — but he did have access to jewelry, cash, firearms and other items, Clements said.

The internal affairs investigation and an audit are ongoing, Paré said. More charges are expected.

The value of the missing jewelry, which had been recovered from a theft, wasn’t immediately known. The piece had been sitting in a secured cabinet for a long time as the police sought its owner, Clements said. They found the rightful owner — and then realized the piece was gone.

That launched the investigation last week. The sergeant in charge of the property and evidence room alerted a supervisor, launching an audit and investigation by the Police Department’s Office of Professional Responsibility.

McCarthy was one of two people with keys to that secured area, which holds jewelry and cash, Paré said. The investigators determined that McCarthy allegedly was responsible for the missing jewelry.

The Providence police obtained a search warrant Wednesday for McCarthy’s home in Warwick; the commissioner declined comment on anything seized during the search.

The department conducts periodic audits on the property and evidence room, Paré said, and one was recently concluded in the summer.

“We know it’s a sensitive area. We put trust in people to be honest, and we have checks and balances,” Paré said. “This tarnishes our image.”

The investigation will prompt changes in how property is released from the department, Clements said. In the past, just one officer was needed to sign off before releasing property. Now, he said, he’d like to see two officers and a supervisor sign off before any property leaves police custody.

McCarthy’s arrest shocked those who’ve known him at the department, including its chief. This was the first alleged offense by McCarthy in his long career, Clements said.

“Why do people risk their livelihood, their career, their pension, their reputation?” Clements said. “I don’t know.”

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