LUMBERTON — A Lumberton police officer has been suspended after being arrested on a charge of drug trafficking, according to James Moore, director of Human Resources for Lumberton.
Officer Jason H. Walters was arrested by agents from the State Bureau of Investigation on Thursday afternoon and charged with attempting to traffic in opium, a schedule II drug, by possession. He is out of jail on $20,000 bond, according to the SBI.
Walters, who is 35 years old, has not had any previous disciplinary problems in the department and was working his way up the career ladder, Moore said.
Walters has no prior criminal record, other than a speeding violation in 1993, according to the District Attorney’s Office.
If convicted, Walters could serve a minimum five years, 10 months in prison and be fined $50,000.
Lumberton Police Chief Mike McNeill referred questions to the SBI, which did not provide details of the alleged crime.
Walters is the second Lumberton police officer accused of a drug crime in nine months.
Trial is pending for 24-year-old Matthew Miller, a former Lumberton police officer. Miller, of Clarkton, was arrested on Sept. 26, 2011, and charged with obtaining a controlled substance by fraud or forgery and two counts of trafficking in opium or heroin. He is free on a $4,000 secured bond.
Miller kept prescription medications methadone and oxycodone after telling a woman that he was going to dispose of them, according to court documents. Moore said Miller was suspended the day charges were filed. His employment was terminated on Dec. 9, at which point he had worked for the department for two years without any disciplinary action against him, Moore said.
Erich Hackney, Lumberton councilman, said that the decisions of officers should not reflect on the city’s choices for law enforcement officers. The Lumberton Police Department “has traditionally gone above and beyond what is required by the state” in their screening process for potential employees, said Hackney, a former police officer and now an investigator with the District Attorney’s Office.
“If an officer’s circumstances change after employment, you can only deal with it at that time,” he said. “If it doesn’t come up during the pre-employment investigation, there’s nothing they can do.”