ALTOONA, Iowa -- An Altoona detective resigned in April of 2018 after he allegedly stole prescription pills from the department’s evidence locker.
The Department of Criminal Investigation says that two incidents led them to former detective, Joshua Copeland. According to the police report, in January of 2017 a lab testing a bottle of pills discovered that the contents inside had contained over the counter medication. In December of 2017 an evidence custodian found that another bottle of pills contained over the counter pills.
Police found the evidence bags the pills had been in had been swapped out and replaced with forged ones. Altoona police called in the DCI.
“That's gotta be a very tough call that I'd never want to be a part of, but with that being said they did the right thing when they discovered something was wrong with the evidence they did give us, an outside agency a call” said Mike Motsinger, Special Agent in Charge at the DCI.
According to police documents, after looking at several writing samples "It was determined that the handwriting on the forged evidence packaging was made by Detective Copeland".
Meanwhile, in March of 2018, a small amount of meth was found in Copeland’s police car. A blood test of came back positive for the drug. Motsinger says cases like these are rare in Iowa.
It's not common in the state of Iowa for something like this to happen. Police departments have a lot of protocols in place that don't allow stuff like this to happen
However, Joe Latta, Executive Director of the International Association of Property and Evidence says with the nationwide opioid epidemic, it happens often around the country.
“It's not unusual that we've put people in the property room and they have some type of an injury or something, like they've been injured on duty, and while they're going through any type of rehabilitation and they're using pain pills, and all of a sudden those pain pills start disappearing” said Latta.
Latta also says often times evidence rooms are not properly staffed, which makes accessing the contents inside much easier.
Last year the Association of Property and Evidence tracked about 500 news stories related to the topic. Latta estimates about two thirds of those were about to evidence being stolen by officers.
DCI is not aware of any active cases or trials the evidence Copeland is accused of stealing was a part of.