July 02, 2013 - 3:17 PM
A former Merritt police chief will spend the next year on probation for stealing and using seized cocaine exhibits. Now resigned from the force, 54 year-old Stuart Seib pleaded guilty to breaching the public's trust and appeared in Kelowna Provincial Court today for sentencing.
Seib was coming off a cocaine binge when he confessed to a fellow officer his ongoing habit of dipping into cocaine from the department's exhibit locker, feeding an addiction he says started as an attempt to self-medicate depression.
Before his promotion to the Merritt detachment, Seib was already using the drug during his service at the Clearwater detachment. Police investigation later revealed Seib had taken 30-40 flaps of cocaine, stored from closed files in the Merritt exhibit locker.
A day after his confession Seib was arrested when caught entering his residence that was taped off for investigation. An officer found him with two bags of cocaine, the one in his pocket belonging to an open investigation.
Giving her decision today Judge Jane Cartwright acknowledged Seib's depression started twelve years ago after witnessing a gruesome car accident in which he recognized one of the victims, a young girl he met at a drug and alcohol presentation he gave just a few days prior.
Seib was later diagnosed with post traumatic stress disorder that stemmed from the experience where he saw the girl's body “ripped in pieces,” Cartwright said.
She says his crimes point to the terrible hold cocaine addiction can have on a user and “despite his excellent reputation,” Seib was unable to make rational decisions.
Before reading out the sentence Cartwright said Seib's criminal conviction illustrates, “we are again assured no one is above the law.” As a senior commanding officer he let down his community and fellow officers, she said.
Seib was given a conditional discharge with one year of probation followed by two and half years of court ordered supervision and fifty hours of community service.
Upon successful completion of his probation, Seib will have no criminal record.
Cartwright said a jail sentence wasn't called for in this case, since his crimes did not directly victimize anyone but himself. She also gave him credit for coming forward and admitting to the offences. The fact his policing career is finished and the public humiliation he has already suffered through the media, is something to be expected for, “such a rare and unique crime,” she said.
Defence lawyer Neville McDougall says he was satisfied with today's decision.
“It's only now in the last five, ten years we're hearing so much of post traumatic stress disorder with police officers... as part of their regular duties, experience scenes that you and I don't see,” he said.
McDougall also said it can be difficult for officers in particular to reach out for help when suffering with the traumatic nature of their work.
“You also have the police mentality of not being weak, and not admitting to depression, and that's something that gets overlooked.”
(JULIE WHITTET /InfoTel Multimedia)
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News from © InfoTel News Ltd, 2013