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Ross police officer quits over marijuana find

| Wednesday, Sept. 1, 2010

A former Ross police officer said Tuesday his "curiosity" over a 2-foot-tall marijuana plant he found and watered brought an abrupt end to his 30-year career.

Richard D. White, 58, said he has no idea how police found out about the plant and said he was told to resign after a meeting with police Chief Ralph C. Freedman on Aug. 23.

"I do regret it," White said outside his Shaler home. "I should have just kicked it over right away."

Ross police said an internal investigation determined that an officer might be involved in "illegal activity concerning marijuana."

Police and township officials did not name the officer.

Detective Brian Kohlhepp said Ross turned over results of the investigation to the Allegheny County District Attorney.

Mike Manko, spokesman for District Attorney Stephen A. Zappala Jr., said members of the office met with Ross police yesterday and are assisting in the investigation.

"We received a request from Ross Township to assist in this investigation. We expect to say more about the results of the investigation (today)," Manko said.

White, a traffic officer, said he found the plant while on duty about a month ago as he was urinating in a wooded area off Cemetery Lane.

White said he watered the plant once, again while on duty, but said he didn't have any plan for the illegal plant.

A week after he first saw it, White said, he destroyed the plant.

"After I thought about it, I got rid of it. I said this was stupid and pulled it out of the ground."

White said he didn't tell fellow officers about his find, so he's not sure how police knew of the plant. When confronted by Freedman, White said, he didn't deny the accusation.

White said his resignation was effective the day he met with Freedman. Kohlhepp would only say an officer was removed from duty and no longer is employed by the township.

Township Commissioner Peter A. Ferraro said police notified commissioners about the accusation last week. Commissioners wanted the matter to be turned over to the district attorney's office so there would be no perception that officials were covering up the case.

"We stand behind our police department 100 percent," Ferraro said. "Whatever it is, we'll face it and get through it."

Solicitor Bonnie Brimmeier would not comment, saying it was a personnel issue.

Staff writer Bobby Kerlik contributed to this report.

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