A Sauk Prairie police officer arrested Tuesday on tentative felony drug charges was stealing medications from his police department’s Med Drop box, according to search warrants filed Wednesday.
Matt Alt, 38, was jailed Tuesday on tentative charges of misconduct in office, possession of narcotics and illegally obtaining prescription drugs, according to Chief Jerry Strunz. Formal charges against Alt, who was a school resource officer during four of his 17 years with the Sauk Prairie Police Department, are expected Thursday afternoon in Sauk County Circuit Court in Baraboo, according to the clerk of courts’ office.
Alt is the second area officer accused of stealing drugs from a police department drop box this year. Oregon police Lt. Karey Clark, 38, who died unexpectedly Jan. 9, was stealing drugs from the department’s evidence room and prescription drug disposal box, an investigation found.
Alt’s arrest followed an investigation that began internally and then was turned over to the state Department of Justice’s Division of Criminal Investigation on Nov. 9, Strunz said. The chief, as well as DOJ spokeswoman Anne Schwartz, declined to release further details because the investigation is ongoing.
But search warrants filed Wednesday in Dane County Circuit Court by DCI showed that suspicions arose over Alt’s duties as the officer in charge of emptying the Sauk Prairie Police Department’s Med Drop box of unwanted medications intended for safe disposal. Drugs taken from the drop box generally are put in a box and locked in the department’s evidence room, then sealed in a box for eventual disposal by the federal Drug Enforcement Agency, the warrants state.
According to the warrants, which granted permission to search Alt’s truck and his home in rural North Freedom for evidence, Alt’s colleagues found it unusual that Alt would come to the department on his days off to empty the Med Drop box.
The warrants state:
Strunz told DCI Agent Debra Strauss that he had noticed odd behavior by Alt in the past few months, including falling asleep in staff meetings, “lethargic, almost mumbling” speech, and profuse sweating, so bad that Alt kept his squad car windows open and carried a hand towel.
Detective Paul Deuman told Strauss that on Nov. 9, he noticed a particular pill bottle inside the drop box when he checked it that morning. Later, Deuman said, after encountering Alt, who had acted “suspicious,” he noticed that the bottle was gone and couldn’t be found anywhere. The bottle was later learned to have contained animal tranquilizers.
The nursing manager of an area assisted living home also told investigators that Alt had volunteered to take unused medications for residents, and local pharmacists said he began picking up unused medications from their pharmacies every couple of weeks, something that no other officers had done.
On Nov. 24, investigators took dropped-off medications out of the drop box, documented them, then put them back inside. Later, Alt came to the department while off duty and emptied the drop box. Some of the medications that had been found in the drop box earlier were placed in the evidence room, per procedure, while some of them could not be found.
A surveillance video of the drop box showed Alt looking through the contents of the drop box and taking some of the medications.
In Alt’s truck, according to an inventory filed with the search warrant for the truck, investigators found one of the bottles that had been documented from the drop box. At his home, another inventory states, investigators found “numerous pills and tablets” and “numerous medicine bottles.”
At a press conference Wednesday, Strunz said that the Baraboo Police Department has been asked to assist in an extensive audit of Sauk Prairie’s entire evidence system.
The news of Alt’s arrest surprised some in the tight-knit twin communities of Sauk City and Prairie du Sac on the west bank of the Wisconsin River that serves as a border between Dane and Sauk counties.
Alt, who is on paid leave until the investigation is concluded, was the first officer accused of misconduct during Strunz’s nearly 18-year tenure as police chief, Strunz said. He added that the department has 15 employees, including 12 full-time officers, and they all are very close.
“Obviously this is a very tragic time for us as an agency,” Strunz said.
At the time of his arrest, Alt was a patrol officer assigned to the day shift and did several duties for the department, Strunz said. The department had no issues with Alt’s behavior up to this point, Strunz added.
Alt was the school resource officer from 2007-2011 and helped strengthen an already positive relationship between the school district and police department, Sauk Prairie Superintendent Cliff Thompson said. “I’m extremely supportive of that (school resource officer) position,” Thompson added.
Middle school principal Ted Harter said Alt did an excellent job of making sure he was visible, proactive and helpful with students so they learned that police officers are supposed to support the community.
“I was always pleased with Matt’s work, his integrity and his care for the students he worked with,” Harter said. “I saw that continue with him as an officer.”
If children ask about Alt’s arrest, Harter said, teachers will talk about the importance of offering Alt an opportunity to take responsibility for his alleged actions, recover and move on to become a productive citizen again. He added that was the advice Alt gave students when he was the school resource officer.
“People think school resource officers should be about accountability and safety. It’s really about teaching about learning and growth when kids make mistakes and before they make mistakes,” Harter said. “That’s what we teach here and Matt did an outstanding job of teaching us that.”
Harter said the school district is working closely with Alt’s family to help his children “get through what is obviously a difficult time.”
Published by madison.com