CHARLOTTETOWN - An RCMP officer responsible for handling evidence at the Kings District detachment has been suspended and is facing criminal charges after he allegedly stole prescription pills from an exhibit lockup.
RCMP spokesman Sgt. Andrew Blackadar said the officer has been suspended with pay while a code of conduct investigation is underway, although it is too early to say what the possible outcome could be.
"This is a very serious matter and will be taken very seriously by the RCMP," he said.
Blackadar said the RCMP's exhibit handling policies are very strict and the police force does periodic audits to make sure procedures are followed.
In this case, the RCMP reported that someone noticed irregularities as part of a random check during another investigation.
Blackadar said there are only a few people in each unit who are able to handle evidence once it goes into the secured room where it is stored.
"It's not something that we fool around with and they called in the major crimes unit right away to do a comprehensive audit," he said.
That audit found irregularities in several drug files and the investigators noticed prescription pills were missing, although Blackadar said he didn't know how many.
"The rest of our exhibits are pristine out there but there were some issues with some of our prescription pill files."
Blackadar said in most of the affected cases the exhibits were scheduled to be destroyed, but the RCMP still has to review five or six cases with federal Crown attorneys to see what impact there might be on active cases.
"It does have some far reaching implications," Blackadar said.
The federal Crown prosecutes cases involving violations of the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act.
Blackadar said the RCMP's investigators worked quickly because they wanted to make sure no other exhibits were compromised.
Since the thefts, the RCMP has tightened its procedure when it comes to handling evidence with respect to drugs so it doesn't happen again, Blackadar.
"It's going to become even more strict."
Blackadar also said there was no indication the drugs were being sold.
"They would have all been for personal use," he said.
On June 4, the RCMP charged Cpl. Blair Ross with theft, breach of trust by a public officer and possession of a controlled substance.
He is scheduled to appear in Georgetown court July 25 to enter a plea.
Ross had two previous unrelated convictions that did not result in jail time.
In 1998 he was given a conditional discharge for assaulting a woman and in 2011 he was given a suspended sentence for shoving a man during a disagreement.