A former Tempe cop accused of stealing evidence from the agency's evidence room -- including a refrigerator -- has pleaded guilty to reduced charges.
Initially, former Tempe Officer Elliot Campbell was booked on two counts of theft of a credit card, 10 counts of tampering with evidence, and one count each of forgery, burglary, and theft. He pleaded guilty this morning to attempt to commit theft of credit card obtained by fraudulent means, and tampering with physical evidence.
Campbell, an 11-year veteran, was arrested in May after an investigation revealed he looted the department's evidence room and used the items he stole -- including several gift cards to various retail stores -- for a little home improvement.
The Arizona Registrar of Contractors Office began investigating Campbell in April regarding his performing contract work without a contractor's license.
The investigation revealed that Campbell was driving on a suspended license. He was placed on administrative leave pending the outcome of the investigation, which ultimately found he'd also been stealing evidence.
During the course of their investigation, authorities searched Campbell's squad car and found envelopes checked out of the department's evidence room in March 2008. Additionally, detectives found that Campbell also had checked out a refrigerator, a clothes washer, a watch, and some tools from the evidence room. He told employees in the evidence room he was planning to return the items to their owners, which is why he was allowed to take them.
It was later determined that the gift cards Campbell had checked out of the evidence room were used at Costco and Target stores near the officer's home. A search of his house turned up the watch and the refrigerator. The washing machine, Campbell later told police, was given to a friend.
Bill Richardson is a former Mesa detective who is often critical of the Tempe Police Department. He says Campbell never should have been permitted to remove the items from the evidence room in the first place.
In a letter to Tempe officials, Richardson wrote the following:
In all my years of experience and being involved in hundreds and hundreds of felony criminal cases I have never ever taken evidence out of the property/evidence division and personally returned it to a victim. I have never heard of such a thing. It is the duty of the property/evidence custodian to dispose of evidence and seized property not an officer involved in the case.
That said, if there are lose procedures in the property/evidence division of the Tempe PD there maybe other problems relating to misappropriated property and evidence. Phoenix just uncovered a case where a detective was purportedly taking drug evidence to court when he was using the drugs himself. Lax rules, lax supervision lead to police corruption.
When you discover one dirty cop you have to figure there are others who are exploiting the system.
Following his arrest, Campbell resigned from the department. His sentencing is scheduled for October 21.
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