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Former Merritt police chief may escape criminal record for stealing seized cocaine

Stuart Seib leaving the Kelowna Provincial Court today following his sentence hearing.
May 27, 2013 - 4:24 PM

A former commander of the Merritt RCMP who confessed to stealing drugs from his police department likely won't spend any time behind bars, and may not even have a criminal record.

Stuart Seib, 54, was arrested January 10, 2012 after telling another officer he had been using cocaine stored in the detachment's exhibit locker. He pleaded guilty to breaching public trust and appeared for sentencing today in Kelowna Provincial Court.

During his two years of service in Merritt, Seib took multiple bags and rocks of crack cocaine stored for destruction. The investigation revealed discrepancies in six police files where the quantity of drugs in storage fell short of the amounts on record.

In one case, Seib took drugs to be used as evidence in an open investigation.

In his confession, Seib revealed he had a key to the exhibit locker and waited until he was alone at night to remove cocaine destined for destruction. He said he snorted cocaine most nights until 3 a.m. and then went into work the following morning. He also admitted to using the drug before doing patrols.

Crown prosecutor Sheryl Wagner told the court Seib was "getting careless,” spiralling out of control since first using the drug during his service at the Clearwater RCMP in 2010.

Seib said he started using cocaine to cope with the onset of depression triggered by a gruesome car crash he witnessed eight years prior. Seib said the accident was particularly traumatic because he recognized one of the crash victims—a young girl—from a drug awareness lecture he gave just days before.

He first experimented with the drug while on patrol when he found a baggie left behind by a group of young men. Seib said he believed cocaine would help him combat his depression.

None of his colleagues suspected anything at the time, despite the large amounts of cocaine he was using. Records indicated 58 grams of cocaine slated for destruction went missing from the Clearwater detachment, confirming Seib's testimony.

Defence lawyer Neville McDougall said Seib was also struggling with work stress, rose very quickly in the ranks during his 11 years of service. Being promoted to Commander of the Merritt RCMP in 2011 exacerbated his depression, McDougall said. Seib was working overtime to compensate for an under-staffed and inexperienced police force.

"He felt it was his duty to be involved and to be on call," McDougall said. "No one picked up on the fact he lost 15 pounds in one year."

While the maximum sentence for his crime is five years in prison, the Crown recommended that Seib get a conditional discharge with two years of probation with condition. That means he would have no criminal record.

Although Seib retired from the service on a medical discharge after his arrest, Wagner says he must be made accountable in order to denounce the crime and deter others from committing similar offences.

"He was a senior member with a high degree of trust and responsibility," she told the court.

Wagner also found it troubling Seib's confession was prompted by his paranoia of being caught by other officers, and that he was caught trying to hide some of the remaining baggies when police came to search his basement suite following his confession.

Wagner said Seib made the choice to take drugs instead of accessing the support services available to him.

"He chose not to reach out for that help," she said.

In Seib's defence, McDougall is requesting his client be cleared of criminal charges, with a maximum of one year probation. He said his client has spent the last 17 months voluntarily participating in counselling, drug treatment and detox.

McDougall said Seib needs time to complete his recovery and would not be suited to provide mentoring services for other RCMP officers as requested by the Crown.

"He's just not ready yet, it may not be in his best interest for rehabilitation," McDougall said.

Seib now lives on a 100-acre hobby farm in Clearwater and helps his wife operate an outreach program for children.

McDougall asked Judge Jane Cartwright to give Seib credit for his otherwise untainted career, the fact that he turned himself in and for suffering public shaming through the media and the financial setback of being forced into early retirement. 

Cartwright will give her final sentencing a week from today, allowing more time to make her decision.

To contact the reporter for this story, email Julie Whittet at jwhittet@infotelnews.ca or call (250)718-0428.

News from © InfoTel News Ltd, 2013
InfoTel News Ltd

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