By Henry K. Lee 4/5/14
A Concord police K-9 officer surrendered Friday and will resign after being charged with stealing prescription drugs from senior citizens.
Matthew Switzer, a 12-year department veteran, appeared in Contra Costa County Superior Court in Martinez on Friday afternoon but did not enter a plea to two counts of first-degree burglary and one count each of second-degree burglary, fraudulently obtaining prescription drugs and elder abuse.
Switzer, 38, who is on paid administrative leave, is being held in lieu of $480,000 bail.
Switzer’s attorney Harry Stern said his client had been prescribed Norco, a narcotic pain reliever, for an on-duty neck injury “that caused a great deal of pain. He was trying to keep working. They prescribed him drugs, they continued to prescribe him and he got hooked. And once you’re hooked, that’s a real hard one to beat. It’s heroin by any other name.”
Stern said Switzer had a great reputation but would resign effective Friday because “he realizes the position he put himself and the department in.” Switzer’s focus now will be on getting treatment, Stern said, adding, “He will battle back from this, but it’s going to take a little bit of time and prayer.”
The investigation began after a tipster contacted police and said Switzer was stealing drugs from senior citizens, authorities said.
Concord Police Chief Guy Swanger said he referred the matter to the district attorney’s office for investigation to avoid any appearance of bias.
Switzer allegedly swiped prescription drugs, including Norco, from two elderly victims, a man and a woman, who live at the Heritage senior housing complex on Pacheco Street in downtown Concord.
The thefts occurred between November and February, said Deputy District AttorneyBarry Grove.
“It’s always a sad situation when police officers commit crimes,” Grove said. “We do a lot to gain the trust of the public in the criminal justice system, and part of that trust is doing the right thing and prosecuting somebody when they commit a crime, regardless of their status as a police officer.”
Switzer and his K-9 dog partner, Rosco, worked for several years together until the dog retired because of seizures before dying last year. Switzer most recently worked with a dog named Figo.