Warrant issued for former police officer

BATESVILLE, AR (KAIT) - Batesville police issued an arrest warrant for a former officer who took drugs from the evidence fault.

According to Batesville police, Officer Phillip Pickett II has been charged with breaking and entering, possession of a controlled substance, drug paraphernalia and tampering with physical evidence.

"The Arkansas State Police immediately came in that day and began the investigation which has taken four months and ultimately they have charged him with four felonies," Batesville Police Chief Alan Cockrill said.

The incident happened March 7 at the Batesville Police Department.

Officer Kyle Williford checked surveillance video from inside the vault and observed Pickett breaking into the vault and removing evidence on two separate occasions.

"I came down here reviewed the video and felt like there was some misconduct going on. We in turn contacted Arkansas State Police at that time," Cockrill said.

Though Pickett did not have entry to the vault, it was discovered Pickett gained access via a key given to department supervisors from a locked box in an officer's office.

"It was where we stored our extra keys. I was not aware that we had an extra key and I have to take responsibility for that. We had an extra key in the building that was supposed to be secured and it was maintained in the same spot our extra vehicle keys were and the sergeants had a key to that locker," Cockrill said. "I don't know how he figure it out somehow, but he did."

Police Chief Alan Cockrill and several officers took inventory of the missing items and found that items containing methamphetamine, marijuana and cocaine had been tampered with.

Cockrill advised Pickett that he had been stealing from the evidence vault and Pickett admitted the evidence was in his patrol unit.

Officers located seven pieces of evidence in Pickett's patrol unit along with Pickett's uniform shirt.

One officer advised he found a small plastic baggie containing suspected methamphetamine in the left breast pocket. A glass smoking device was also found inside a t-shirt locked in the gun box in the front seat.

"I confronted him that morning and I terminated him. We allowed the state police to take over from there. So we have had little to no contact with him since March," Cockrill said.

Cockrill also said on March 14, Pickett went into the police department's computer based incident reporting system and deleted case file information pertaining to drug related arrests.

According to the systems engineer at White River Systems & Solutions, Pickett had gone into pre-existing incident reports and deleted all information in the reports, leaving only the incident report number with no information.

Cockrill told Region 8 News he is upset this happened within his department, but he wants the public to know his officers are always held accountable.

"It is a sad day for us it's have been coming for four months but I hope the public understands that we police the public and we are going to police ourselves," Cockrill said. "We did exactly what we would have done if he had been a citizen on the street; we treated him the same way. There was no way around filing the charges."

Cockrill said Pickett has been in law enforcement for almost 6 years.

"Phillip and I were very good friends, I mean I have known him my whole life," Cockrill said.

He started at the Independence County Sheriff's Department back in 2010 and moved to the Batesville Police Department when it opened in 2015.

Cockrill said this is a perfect example of how drugs can affect anyone.

"He is a very nice young man and I think this just goes to show you what drugs can do to society," Cockrill said.

Cockrill said unfortunately Pickett used his position to obtain drugs.

"We put him in a position to go out there and arrest dopers and it puts them in a position to deal with drugs and deal with people and it just got the best of him," Cockrill said.

Cockrill said departments and chiefs can do everything possible to make sure things like this do not happen, but ultimately it is up to the officer to respect his position of authority.

"Things happen and you can't get into people's mind on why they happen, but it is just one of those things where officers are exposed to, whether it is guns, money or drugs. If any of them have a weakness that is why we try to do such a good background check and psychological exams. You do all you can do but you cannot stop everything," Cockrill said.

He said he hopes this incident does not put a shadow on the department that has some very good officers.

"Possibly with the drug cases involved this could hurt our prosecution ability," Cockrill said.

He is disappointed this happened under his watch and hopes the pubic knows the department is still solid.

"It is an embarrassment to me because I hired him, it is an embarrassment to the Batesville Police Department, but we have done everything we think we can do to correct the problem. Including arresting one of our own and that is one of the hardest things I have had to do in my 32 years," Cockrill said. "We had to do it and we have done it and now it is in the courts hands."

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