Officer accused of stealing seized marijuana

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A Calgary cop is facing drug possession, theft and breach of trust charges after an investigation found he failed to properly handle confiscated marijuana.

The police service’s anti-corruption unit launched an investigation last November into allegations that Const. Robert Cumming, 43, may have seized marijuana during the course of his duties, but failed to dispose of it according to procedure.

The probe resulted in Cumming’s arrest last Friday on the charges.

The officer, who has been with the police service for about 15 years, was relieved of duty with pay for the next seven days, though his compensation will be reviewed, Supt. Ryan Ayliffe said.

The seven-month investigation that led to Cumming’s arrest was “significant and complex,” said Ayliffe, who called the case disappointing.

“The public trust and confidence is something we take very seriously,” Ayliffe told reporters.

“We don’t like to disappoint the community when things like this happen, but at the same time we want to be transparent when these things do happen.”

Cumming is accused of possessing an ounce of marijuana that was seized as evidence in previous drug cases.

Ayliffe said the breach of trust charge — linked to the officer’s alleged mishandling of evidence — is the most serious.

“I can think of only a handful of times in my career that we’ve charged police officers with that (breach of trust),” Ayliffe said.

An investigation into Cumming’s handling of other evidence is ongoing.

Police are also working with Crown prosecutors to review any case that may have been affected by the alleged mishandling of drug evidence.

“Right from recruit class, our officers are taught how to process exhibits, including drug exhibits,” Ayliffe said.

“Having been a member of the drug unit myself, I know that the processes are very clear.”

Cumming’s next court appearance is scheduled for July 15.

He also faces a police professional standards investigation after the charges against him are resolved in court.

“There’s rigour that goes to our selection and our hiring, and there’s an amount of faith that we have in all our officers to conduct their duties appropriately,” Ayliffe said.

In this case it is alleged that this member went below those thresholds.”

The police union said it’s aware of the charges and will provide Cumming with legal counsel, at least for now.

“Any time one of our officers is charged with a criminal offence, that’s serious and it’s unfortunate; it’s disappointing,” said Howard Burns, president of the Calgary Police Association.

“But right now they’re allegations, and we need to see what makes up those allegations. We’re in the dark right now.”

Once details of the case are available, the police union will review them to assess whether it will continue helping the officer, Burns said. The union generally supports officers accused of crimes while on duty. In most of these cases, officers face excessive force allegations, though Burns said the union has provided assistance in other cases.

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