Police officer resigns after he was caught stealing food from a crime scene
A law enforcement officer who had worked for more than 20 years has been forced to resign in disgrace after he was caught stealing food from a crime scene.
Last year, a team from La Plata County Sheriff’s Office searched a home in Durango, Colorado, on the suspicion that the homeowners were illegally growing marijuana. But during that bust, the suspects caught on camera a crime of a completely different nature, involving one of the officers on duty.
According to the Durango Herald, Lt. Ryan Engle from the La Plata County Sheriff’s Office was caught "stealing three to five granola bars" from the suspect's home while the drug bust was going on, and this officer conduct issue has forced Lt. Engle to resign as a consequence.
"It’s very unfortunate," said Christian Champagne, 6th Judicial District attorney, "But the integrity and credibility of law enforcement always has to be above reproach." Engle's case was reported to the Colorado Bureau of Investigation, while the Sheriff’s Office conducted their own internal investigation, suspending Engle in the process.
As a result of the twin investigations against him, the law enforcement officer of 20 years decided to resign, which prompted Champagne to drop the DA case against him. "We felt that given his resignation, he basically suffered sufficient consequences and that it wouldn’t be necessary to pursue a criminal case against him," he explained.
With Engle's last day reportedly on Friday, his attorney Ryan Brungard tried to explain Engle's actions that day. He says that on the day of the incident, the granola bars in question were on a table in the middle of an open room, and that with the homeowners being cooperative, Engle thought it would be okay to take some for his colleagues.
"Based on the atmosphere of the search and the homeowner’s hospitality, Ryan felt the granola bars were open for anyone to take. So Ryan took a handful for his fellow search team and law enforcement colleagues. This is an unfortunate loss to our community, and we’re losing a fantastic law enforcement officer. And this situation, as you can imagine, has taken an incredible toll on Ryan."
But Champagne and Sheriff Sean Smith, who is conducting the internal investigation, argue that while the infraction itself may have been minor, the action was inappropriate, and unfortunately cannot be ignored. "Law enforcement is held to a different standard, and we have to hold ourselves to a different standard," Smith said.
Champagne also explained that in order for Engle to stay on the force, he would have to file a "Brady letter" against him - which would let all defense attorneys know of the incident, which would affect his credibility moving forward. Smith says that a Brady letter is often a career ender, and Champagne explained the principles behind the Brady letter.
"The principle behind it is that it doesn’t make a difference if it’s $5 or $5,000. We expect as a society our officers are going to operate to the highest standards of honesty and integrity, and any slip can’t be looked past.
It’s very unfortunate because Engle did excellent work for this community and worked in law enforcement for over two decades. But it’s also more important we are completely transparent when it comes to anything related to the credibility, honesty and integrity from law-enforcement officers."
Smith said he asked Engle, who led the task force from mid-2015, to stay with the Sheriff’s Office until the end of the month so he can train his replacement.