CLEVELAND, Tenn. — A Cleveland police officer who resigned this month was so addicted to hydrocodone he was acquiring the drugs in uniform and snorting the crushed pills in his cruiser, an investigation report shows.
Officer Josh West resigned Jan. 6 during an internal affairs investigation in which he admitted he was addicted to hydrocodone, a morphinelike painkiller, the report states.
Steve Bebb, district attorney for the 10th Judicial District, said Tuesday that West will not be prosecuted because his admission of drug use to police investigators couldn't be used against him in a criminal case.
"As I understand it, our total proof would be two straws which may or may not be drug-related," Bebb said. "He's probably addicted to painkillers; he's lost his job; he's had his picture plastered everywhere, and I just think he's been punished enough."
West could not be reached for comment Tuesday.
The Chattanooga Times Free Press obtained the internal affairs investigation report under the state's open records laws.
Cleveland Police Department Chief Wes Snyder said in an email that a Bradley County deputy first raised suspicions about West, who was suspended with pay while an investigation was started.
West admitted to investigators that he had been taking prescribed hydrocodone for back and neck pain since January 2011, the report stated. Asked why he had not informed his supervisor about the drug use, he said he didn't know he was required to do so.
He said he sometimes took a higher dosage than prescribed, and admitted he sometimes crushed the pills and snorted them. Authorities say snorting increases a pill's effect.
Sometimes he ran out of pills, West said, and "borrowed" more from a friend, Brad Delk, the report stated. According to the report, Delk's criminal history includes charges of possessing drugs and drug paraphernalia.
Delk could not be reached for comment Tuesday.
West admitted that he sometimes "borrowed" pills while on duty and in uniform, according to the report.
"Officer West would make regular visits to Brad Delk's residence on duty and off duty to trade hydrocodone. Officer West would perform these transactions while other people were present at Delk's residence as well," according to the report.
A search of West's city police cruiser turned up suspected hydrocodone pills, other pills and straws used to snort the crushed drugs, the report states.
He was found to have violated departmental policies against alcohol and narcotics use and addiction, unlawful conduct, improper association and failing to comply with policy and procedures.
West had worked for the department since November 2007 and was on medical leave from June 7, 2010, to Aug. 15, 2010, according to records with the Peace Officer Standards and Training Commission.
Snyder said West had passed a drug test months earlier, and that West had good evaluations except for a three-day suspension some months ago for mishandling a call on a domestic situation.
West's case isn't the first instance of Cleveland officers misusing prescription drugs.
In late 2008, an off-duty Cleveland officer who was high on pills shot another officer in the hand. Eventually, three officers admitted abusing hydrocodone while two of them also were prosecuted and jailed for having sex with teenage girls.
Judy Walton has worked 25 years at the Chattanooga Times and the Times Free Press as an editor and reporter focusing on government coverage and investigations. At various times she has been an assistant metro editor, region reporter and editor, county government reporter, government-beat team leader, features editor and page designer. Originally from California, Walton was brought up in a military family and attended a dozen schools across the country. She earned a journalism degree ...