BYLINE: Elissa Paquette
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ROGER MARTEL in the booking photo from the Carroll County Jail, taken Jan. 5, as he was booked to serve his three-day sentence for the theft of 125 oxycodone pills from the Wolfeboro Police Department evidence room.
WOLFEBORO — On Jan. 4 an eight-year former officer of the Wolfeboro Police Department was convicted in the Third Circuit Court in Ossipee of illegally taking 120 oxycodone pills from the department's evidence room on May 15 and illegally driving with the controlled drug in his truck.
The conviction of Roger Martel, 40, on the two Class A misdemeanors followed a four-month investigation by Wolfeboro police and the N.H. Attorney General's Bureau of Public Integrity.
Documents on file at the court describe the chain of events leading to Martel's arrest. Sgt. Scott Moore, the officer in charge of the evidence room, after noticing on two separate occasions that the door to the evidence room was not secure, set up a camera in the room, and on May 14, Martel was recorded in the act of taking a box off the shelf from the Drug Take Back collection and returning a few minutes later to put it back in place.
Upon investigation, Moore noticed that the writing on the evidence bag label did not look like that of Officer Guy Maloney, the officer who had recorded and stored the contents. Moore and Lt. Dean Rondeau then came upon a shredded evidence bag in a trash can outside of the room, whose contents label had been destroyed.
Within 24 hours of the presentation of their findings, Chief Stuart Chase, accompanied by Moore, was in the office of investigator Richard Tracy of the Bureau of Public Integrity at the AG's office presenting the facts of the case.
Chief Chase said in a phone interview that he wanted an outside investigation so there would be "no hint of impropriety."
On June 21, the N.H. State Police forensic lab reported that Martel's latent fingerprints were identified on the original evidence bag that had been shredded and on Maloney's medicine information sheet.
Martel admitted voluntarily in an interview on Sept. 9 with Tracy that he had removed the medication from the evidence bag and repackaged the empty container in a new evidence bag and revealed that he had taken a key from the chief's office to gain entry to the evidence room.
Court records show that at the plea and sentencing hearing, the state recommended that Martel be sentenced to concurrent sentences of 12 months at the Carroll County House of Corrections, with all but 30 days deferred for one year.
Martel asked Judge Varney to reduce the 30 days of jail time to three, arguing that he had lost his career and had to relocate as a result of his addiction to pain medication, after having been prescribed the medication for back and shoulder injuries.
After considering the arguments, Varney reduced the served jail time to three days. Martel was sentenced to concurrent sentences of 12 months at the county jail, and the court also imposed the negotiated terms that Martel must obtain a substance abuse evaluation from a licensed alcohol and drug abuse counselor, follow all counselor recommendations and pay a $350 fine. His certification as a police officer was revoked and he is not allowed to seek recertification.
Martel served the three days immediately following sentencing.
Saying that the sentence seemed minimal, Chase added, "I'm still struggling to deal with this whole thing. It's still hard to take. I feel like there's a hole in the pit of my stomach.
"It's a breach of trust with repercussions that echo throughout the entire department…An officer raises that right hand to take the oath of office and is obligated to be a cut above the rank and file...Officers have to maintain the moral high ground. We have to adhere to a code of ethics. [Martel's behavior] violates the brother and sisterhood of law enforcement. It's a real deep hurt.
"I've worn the shirt for 42 years and have seen this kind of thing before, but this is a small agency. We know each other's families. The shock of this is difficult to overcome."
At the same time, the chief said that he recognizes the loss to Martel and his family, noting that he's lost his career as a police officer and has relocated to Wisconsin: "The moral sanctions are far-reaching."
"We work hard to develop trust within the community," said Chase, lamenting the backlash that is sure to follow.
Attorney General Michael A. Delaney promised in a press release that his office "will continue to hold accountable and prosecute any police officer who engages in criminal activity and thus violates the laws they have sworn to uphold."
Delaney also stated: "This case demonstrates the extent to which prescription drug abuse and misuse has become a major public health and public safety problem in New Hampshire. I am working closely with leaders in our medical, public health, law enforcement and service provider communities to identify strategies to combat this growing problem."
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