Archive for Tuesday, February 25, 2003

Drug cop blames conspiracy

Peck to appeal firing today

February 25, 2003


Fired Lawrence Police Officer Stuart "Mike" Peck is expected to argue today he was the victim of a conspiracy aimed at hiding the fact a police department "insider" helped drug dealers escape arrest.

"It's a classic 'whistleblower' situation," Peck wrote in a Feb. 3 letter to Police Chief Ron Olin.

The letter is part of a packet distributed last week to the five city employees on the grievance committee scheduled to meet today with Peck and Olin. The committee will decide if Peck was rightly fired.

The Journal-World obtained copies of confidential documents from the packet, including police department internal memos.

In his letter to Olin, Peck wrote that in December he and a confidential informant learned an out-of-town drug ring had set up shop in Lawrence.

Peck told Olin that shortly after he filed a Dec. 18 memo about the ring with his superiors and the department's drug enforcement unit, the drug operation suddenly and inexplicably folded.

"Almost immediately after filing the memo ... my informant advised me that the members of the drug ring came to him and told him that they knew of the police investigation," Peck wrote in the memo to the department's internal affairs office.

The informant, Peck wrote, said he was told the drug ring had people inside its hometown police department and the Lawrence Police Department.

Shortly after reporting the possible leak to internal affairs, Peck wrote that he "became the focus of the internal investigation which has now led to my termination."

Olin is expected to deny Peck's interpretation of events.

"What (Peck) is saying has been investigated and, frankly, he's hanging his hat on an informant who's someone we've not considered credible in the past and whose credibility continues to be a problem," said department spokesman Lt. Dave Cobb.

But Peck insists his informant's tips were consistently reliable. In documents provided the grievance committee, Peck ties more than 20 drug arrests to tips from the informant.

Peck's firing earlier this month came after Judge Michael Malone ruled the officer gave misleading information about the confidential informant to get a search warrant in a drug case. The police department won't say why Peck was fired, citing the confidentiality of personnel records.

But Peck said he was told he was fired because his credibility had been damaged.

In his grievance letter, Peck denies he meant to mislead or withhold information from Malone, noting that his immediate superiors as well as the Douglas County District Attorney's Office were aware of the information he'd filed with the court in seeking a search warrant.

"If you are to believe that I lied, then you must believe that I conspired with all my supervisors and some assistant D.A.s in misleading the judge," Peck wrote in his letter to Olin.

But Cobb said Peck's supervisors didn't question Peck's wording on the affidavit he gave the judge because "it appeared he was being honest."

"I'm afraid that what this all comes down to is that an officer's credibility has come into question," Cobb said. "Without that credibility, that officer has lost his or her ability to testify in court. And when that happens, well, how can you keep someone on who can't do half of what they're hired to do -- and that's to testify in court?"

Peck said Monday he would ask the grievance committee to give him back his job.

"The chances of that happening are pretty slim, I know," Peck said. "But all I really want is to see my name cleared, so that I can resurrect my career and stay in police work because I think this is my calling."

The grievance committee meets at 10 a.m. Its proceedings are closed to the public. A decision is expected by the end of the day. Either side can then appeal the decision to City Manager Mike Wildgen.

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