Ex-Cape narcotics officer arrested by patrol

Friday, May 2, 2003

Charges of theft and paying for sex with crack cocaine and city dollars were filed Thursday against a former Cape Girardeau narcotics detective.

Paul E. Tipler, 35, of Cape Girardeau became the subject of an internal investigation that indicated he stole department money and evidence, said police chief Steve Strong. Tipler was fired in December after being placed on suspension in November. An arrest warrant was issued Thursday.

"The investigation into this whole matter was initiated by this department, and we took action immediately," Strong said. "There was never any attempt to hide or cover anything up. Did we make some mistakes? Yes. Did I make mistakes? Yes. But we've taken steps to make sure this doesn't happen again."

Police contacted the Missouri State Highway Patrol, which began a criminal investigation Nov. 15. A special prosecutor was appointed from the Missouri attorney general's office to review the patrol's findings.

Tipler turned himself in Thursday morning at the patrol's zone office in Jackson. He is free on $10,000 bond. Attempts to contact him for comment were unsuccessful.

Tipler faces seven felonies and four misdemeanors for the following allegations:

One felony count of stealing at least $750 from the police department by acting as if it would be used for legitimate law enforcement purposes when Tipler knew it wouldn't.

Two felony counts of distribution of a controlled substance for giving two women crack cocaine.

Two felony counts of tampering with evidence for concealing cocaine and marijuana from fellow officers during an investigation, thereby hindering the prosecution of a drug suspect.

Two felony counts of forgery for forging two police receipt forms.

Three misdemeanor counts of patronizing prostitution for giving money or drugs to three women in exchange for sex.

One misdemeanor for possession of a defaced firearm.

The charges carry a range of punishment from just six months in jail and a $500 fine for the misdemeanors to a maximum of 15 years in prison on each of the drug charges.

Tipler was hired by Cape Girardeau in May 1993 and had been a detective since August 2000. He was previously an officer in New Madrid, Mo.

"Initially, it was a great deal of disappointment for me," Strong said of the allegations. "I had placed a lot of faith in Tipler when he was working here. And, quite frankly, he let the entire department down."

The department had learned that officers from other area law enforcement agencies were suspicious of Tipler and preferred not to work with him, Capt. Carl Kinnison said.

"We had heard the rumblings, but there was nothing official or concrete," he said.

Often left alone

As a narcotics officer, Tipler had a great deal of liberty in handling his cases. He often worked alone and met with suspects and informants without administrative observation.

He would obtain money from the department to be used to buy drugs and pay informants, so that he could build criminal cases. In doing so, Tipler was required to submit receipts for these expenses, but records showed a shortage on Tipler's account of $750 from August 2000 to November 2002, according to court documents.

Three women named in an investigator's probable cause statement told the patrol that the amounts reflected on the receipts was wrong. They also said the money was given not for drug information but for sexual acts.

When Tipler's police locker was searched, investigators found cocaine and marijuana evidence originally seized during the execution of a search warrant at a Cape Girardeau residence in November 2000 and a Beretta .22 caliber pistol with its serial number defaced, according to the investigator's statement.

For some officers, being consistently immersed in an environment where drug money pours from hand to hand can blur the line between right and wrong, Kinnison said.

"They're consistently dealing with drugs, money and bad people," Kinnison said. "If they choose to go in the wrong direction, it's easy to do. He got involved in those things and was able to do them without anyone finding out about them for a time period."

The investigation motivated the department to design a stricter system of checks and balances in reviewing officer activities. Those changes include more frequent and detailed auditing of receipts of money used in narcotics investigations. Also, a third-party officer will monitor the relationships between narcotics investigators and informants -- something that may prove challenging since some officers may be territorial with sharing their snitches, Kinnison said.

Strong has decided to change the department's policy on solo work in drug investigations.

"Officers in the future will work with a partner in these investigations," he said. "This is to help eliminate any possibility of wrongdoing and to protect an officer should allegations be made he did anything improper."

No date has been set for Tipler's first court appearance. His defense attorney, Stephen Wilson of Cape Girardeau, said they intend to take the case to a trial.

Wilson said Tipler does not have a drug addiction problem.


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