Tempe Cop Aaron Smith Arrested, Accused of Stealing From Police Department

Aaron Smith, a patrol officer with the Tempe Police Department for more than seven years, was arrested this weekend for allegedly stealing some of the department's stuff.

Smith, who told his (now former) fellow officers that he was suffering from "extreme financial hardship," is accused of taking some cash, bikes, and a GPS unit that didn't even work, according to Tempe police.

According to Tempe PD, officers noticed earlier this month that stuff around the department was starting to go missing.

Police say the stuff just happened to go missing during Smith's shift, and he had access to the general areas where the thefts and burglaries occurred.

That includes the lock box that was broken into on July 20, which had around $750 in it, police say.

On Thursday, police decided to test out the theory -- an undercover detective gave Smith a purse with $142 in it, telling him it was found property.

By Saturday morning, neither the purse nor the money was impounded.

Smith was arrested that morning, as police served search warrants on his house, cars, and work locker.

Two Tempe Police Department bicycles were found at Smith's house, as was the purse, which didn't have any of the money left in it.

One of the bills that was planted in the purse was found in Smith's locker, police say.

According to Tempe police, Smith admitted to stealing the bikes, the case containing the GPS unit, and the purse, and also admitted to breaking into the lock box.

Smith said he got the bicycles for his children, and said he tossed the GPS unit in the garbage, apparently after he found out that it wouldn't work.

Police say Smith's total haul was just over $1,000.

Smith was a patrol officer for 7 1/2 years -- until Saturday morning, when he resigned.

Tempe Police Chief Tom Ryff says there's no evidence any other employee was involved in the crimes, but "unfortunately, the regrettable actions of a single employee can have the power to overshadow the honorable and daily good actions that often go unnoticed."

Smith faces charges of felony theft, burglary, and tampering with evidence, as well as misdemeanor theft.

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Matthew Hendley
Contact: Matthew Hendley