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Police upset after paramedic who allegedly stole drugs was allowed to resign rather than face charges

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Posted at 9:31 PM, Oct 01, 2014
and last updated 2014-10-01 23:31:26-04

COTTONWOOD HEIGHTS, Utah -- The city of Cottonwood Heights is upset that a Unified Fire Authority paramedic allegedly stole morphine, but they’re even more irate with how authorities handled it. Or as they say, didn’t handle it.

“A paramedic had actually been caught taking drugs out of the safe,” said Cottonwood Heights Police Chief Robby Russo. “That firefighter was allowed to simply resign without any further investigation or that being reported to law enforcement.”

Russo said the paramedic supposedly resigned in June, but UFA never told anyone.

“We found out through a third party who was from Unified Fire Authority who felt compelled to tell us that that occurred three months prior to us being notified,” Russo said.

Russo believes this same paramedic could be connected with a rash of thefts of morphine and fentanyl, which occurred at several stations, including in Cottonwood Heights, back in 2013. In some of those cases, the real drugs were replaced with other substances.

“Clearly we had an interest in that because the MO was the same, so we thought it was appropriate to conduct an investigation to see if it was related to our case,” Russo said.

Russo says when Cottonwood Heights reached out to UFA for information they were denied.

“We haven’t been granted access to any of that information,” he said. “We asked for the records, and that request has been declined.”

Russo said the worst part about this is potentially losing the public’s trust.

“It’s very serious,” he said. “If it were your family member that was being given inappropriate medication and/or the wrong medication, or no medication, that’s potentially critical or life threatening,” Russo said.

He also said the alleged suspect could still be working in the public safety field, potentially as a paramedic.

UFA Chief Michael Jensen referred all questions to Salt Lake County, which is conducting their own investigation. The Salt Lake County Sheriff’s Office confirmed they are conducting an investigation on this matter, but they wouldn’t go into any further details.

According to the Salt Lake District Attorney’s Office, they have not received any reports, so no charges have been filed at this point.

Russo also sent a letter to Salt Lake County District Attorney Sim Gill, questioning if there was a potential conflict of interest. Jensen is also the Chairman of the County Council.

“I’m not sure we should have elected officials who are also chiefs of police and fire chiefs,” Russo said. “I think that’s a conflict of interest, and that certainly might come into play in this instance.”