Decorated cop denies drugs fueled his police work - FOX13 News, WHBQ FOX 13

Decorated cop denies drugs fueled his police work

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Police put themselves between us and danger every day. That's why, bad cops generate headlines; we don't want to believe it.

It destroys credibility and makes life even harder for the rest of the force. That is part of why Memphis police director Tony Armstrong has a mission to weed out Bad Police Officers.

At his detention hearing a shackled MPD officer James Erwin burst into tears when asked by his attorney to give a rundown of his once stellar service record.

But, the trail of tears for Erwin and his family may be just beginning as he stands accused by federal prosecutors of being a police officer willing to tarnish his profession to fuel his drug addiction.

In his four and a half years as a Memphis Police Officer, 39-year-old James Erwin had such an exemplary record of catching bad guys he was named "Police Officer of the Month" five times. But, ATF investigators and federal prosecutors allege what fueled his zeal for crime-fighting led him to commit acts that were just as criminal.

MPD Director Toney Armstrong, said, "A federal Grand Jury has returned an indictment that alleges that he possessed a pistol, or more specifically, his duty weapon while he was under the influence of a narcotic."

Giving new meaning to the phrase, "Cocaine Cowboy", Erwin sits in a federal prison after a detention hearing in Memphis in front of a federal judge. During the hearing, an ATF agent who arrested Erwin, testified two informants told them they'd allegedly sold crack cocaine to Erwin for years. The informants further alleged, in exchange for drugs, Erwin put up some precious collateral for his mounting drug debt, including giving the convicted drug dealers his service weapon, his badge, a police uniform and a police vest, along with personal items such as TV's and laptops. Although Erwin insisted on the witness stand he'd only been buying crack for four months, the ATF investigator said one of the dealers told him he'd been selling crack to Erwin for 12 years, at least seventy times a year. Erwin testified he'd voluntarily gone to drug rehab in California just two months ago, apparently unknown to the MPD. If Erwin was such a prolific user how could he have ever passed an MPD drug test?

"It would have been picked up in drug-testing. I don't know specifically how many times this particular officer has been tested. But, obviously, if he had he found a way to manipulate the test or he was not under the influence at the time that he was tested," says Armstrong.

Erwin is the latest to join a rogue's gallery of more than two dozen Memphis "Cops Behaving Badly" arrested or indicted since January 2012. Like his previous counterparts he has been relieved of duty with pay pending an MPD administrative hearing. Once again, Armstrong was forced to defend the integrity of his workforce.

Armstrong says, "This is a serious occupation. You have to have the ability to take a person's freedom from the. You have to make life altering decisions within a matter of seconds. It's really, really frightening to know that we had an officer out there that was, could have possibly been on some type of substance, which could have altered his abilities."

We want to know what you think! Should the MPD conduct drug testing of its officers on a monthly or yearly basis?

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