Following orders, officer says of stash

Toronto Star.

A 14-year Peel police officer accused of stealing fake cocaine from a botched RCMP drug delivery insists he was following orders when he took the substance home.

A sub headline in a previously published version of this article incorrectly stated that “other contraband” found in the accused police officer’s garage was his brother’s. In fact, as the article correctly states, Cook testified that the small quantity of marijuana found was in a box that belonged to a tenant who had skipped from a condo leased from his brother.

A 14-year Peel police officer accused of stealing fake cocaine from a botched RCMP drug delivery insists he was following orders when he took the substance home.

Const. Sheldon Cook, 40, says his immediate bosses knew he took home 15 dummy bricks when he discovered the packages in the trunk of his police cruiser after his shift ended in the early hours of Nov. 17, 2005.

He said Acting Det. Warren Williams told him to keep the bricks at his Cambridge home and ranking Det. Marty Rykhoff was aware he was doing so and that he would return them the next morning.

Cook was among several officers, including Williams and Rykhoff, who had unloaded boxes of rotting mangoes concealing suspected cocaine bricks from a courier truck in Mississauga the night before.

“Policing is like a paramilitary organization,” Cook testified yesterday at his Brampton trial. “When you’re given a direct order by a ranking officer, you don’t ask why. You just do.”

Cook has denied stealing the product, which he says he knew was fake.

He also explained why a small quantity of marijuana and allegedly stolen MP3 players were also found in his garage on Nov. 18, 2005.

He said the pot was in a box belonging to a tenant who had skipped from a condo leased from his brother, a real estate agent.

“I had absolutely no knowledge there was any marijuana in my garage,” Cook told his lawyer Pat Ducharme. “There was no odour …”

Cook’s brother put 10 boxes belonging to the tenant, who has never been located, in his garage a month earlier, court was told.

The marijuana, fake cocaine and MP3s were discovered by RCMP officers with a search warrant after a GPS tracking unit hidden with the dummy drugs led them to Cook’s home.

Cook, suspended with pay, has pleaded not guilty to seven charges in this judge-alone trial before Justice Casey Hill that has spread over numerous days since November.

Federal prosecutors David Rowcliffe and Ania Weiler say Cook took the drugs, which they say he believed were real, while taking part in the Peel police seizure of 102 bricks of suspected cocaine from the courier truck.

The white powder turned out to be flour, part of a mistake-filled RCMP-controlled delivery from Peru to Canada that had gone missing 12 hours earlier after arriving at Pearson International Airport.

Police also found 21 MP3 players allegedly among more than 400 stolen from an unrelated police seizure. Cook maintains the MP3 players belonged to his brother, who bought them at a Brampton flea market to use as gifts for his real estate clients.

He gave four to Cook for his own use, kept one for himself and the others were hidden under his bed for Christmas gifts for his two children and a niece.

“I did not steal those MP3 players,” Cook said. “They are the property of my brother and they were bought legitimately.”

Cook said he was shocked when he was arrested for conspiracy to import cocaine.

He said he had worked overtime and never got the chance to return the fake packages before RCMP officers suddenly showed up at his home.

Rykhoff and Williams both denied any knowledge of the fake drugs found at Cook’s home when they testified as Crown witnesses in February.

By Bob Mitchell