An Aberdeen Police Department lieutenant faces charges of misconduct in office and drug possession in connection with an evidence tampering investigation, police officials said Wednesday.
Daniel E. Gosnell, 38, a Churchville resident, is charged with a single count of misconduct in office and a single count of possession of a controlled dangerous substance — not marijuana, according to court records.
Aberdeen Police officials acknowledged in early August that one of the department’s three lieutenants had been suspended with pay pending a criminal investigation into alleged drug evidence tampering. The lieutenant was not identified at the time.
The investigation was turned over to the Maryland State Police.
The charges against Gosnell were discussed in a media briefing outside Aberdeen Police headquarters Wednesday afternoon.
Police Chief Henry Trabert gave a brief statement saying the department started its investigation immediately after officials learned of Gosnell's alleged crimes, which involved repeated thefts of drugs left in the public drop box outside police headquarters and in the police evidence room.
“As soon as we received information of misconduct, our investigation began,” the chief said.
He said the department brought in the State Police to ensure an impartial investigation.
"This investigation has tested the strength of my organization," Trabert said.
He said investigators determined more than 200 drug evidence submissions in closed and active cases had been tampered with or were missing as a result of Gosnell's alleged misconduct.
“These CDS evidence submissions have been itemized and forwarded to the Harford County State’s Attorney’s Office for review," Trabert said.
The chief said Gosnell’s position as a commander “gave him access that made his alleged misconduct harder to detect.”
“I have instituted a complete overhaul of practices and procedures that will provide stricter access to evidence and a more robust drug-testing program for all employees,” he said.
He stressed that Gosnell acted alone, and that there is no evidence he planted any stolen drugs in criminal cases.
"No other member of the department is accused of any criminal misconduct," Trabert said.
Gosnell is still employed with the Aberdeen Police Department and is drawing a salary, although he has been suspended and does not come to the station, APD spokesperson Lt. Will Reiber said.
Maryland State Police is conducting a parallel administrative investigation, and Gosnell remains employed while that investigation continues, Reiber said.
Gosnell has been a member of the Aberdeen Police Department for 18 years.
Maryland’s Office of State Prosecutor issued the charges against Gosnell and is leading the prosecution, State Prosecutor Emmet C. Davitt said Wednesday.
Davitt referred an Aegis reporter to a press release posted on his office’s website for further comment.
Prosecutors allege that Gosnell “repeatedly stole and consumed various controlled dangerous substances” from a drop box outside APD headquarters where residents could dispose of prescription drugs, as well as from the police department’s evidence locker room.
He is accused of taking drugs such as cocaine, fentanyl, heroin, oxycodone and OxyContin, according to the statement.
“Police Officers take an oath to uphold the law and actions and behavior in violation of that oath and the public trust are intolerable,” Davitt said in a statement on his website.
He also thanked the State Police for their investigation. The Harford County State’s Attorney’s Office referred the case to the state prosecutor, according to the statement.
The Office of State Prosecutor investigates “misconduct in office by public officials or employees,” according to the agency website, along with violations of state elections law, violations of state public ethics law, violations of bribery laws that involve public employees or officials and “extortion, perjury or obstruction of justice related to any of the above.”
“As the chief of police it is my obligation to be truthful and transparent with our community even when the alleged misconduct has been committed by one of our own,” Trabert said.
Reiber, the APD spokesperson, encouraged the public to bring their unused prescription drugs to the drop box, rather than flush them down the toilet and risk them ending up in the Chesapeake Bay.
He said the department collects 20 to 30 pounds of drugs from the box each month.
The Aberdeen Police Department has 42 officers when at full strength, according to Reiber.
“It definitely was impactful in terms of what it meant to the department morale,” he said of the allegations against Gosnell.
He said officers learned of the charges Wednesday.
“When one of your own commits an act of misconduct, there’s a ripple effect that goes through the department,” Reiber said.
Gosnell could not be contacted for comment Wednesday. He did not yet have an attorney listed in court records.
Aegis staff member Erika Butler contributed to this report.