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Police: 1 Fired Cop Followed Woman; 1 Lied in Drug Bust

February 07, 2002

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Police: 1 Fired Cop Followed Woman; 1 Lied in Drug Bust

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by David Teibel, Citizen

A Tucson police officer fired last month improperly used a police computer and lied about contact with a woman he stopped in a traffic incident, investigators say.

In an unrelated case, police say another officer was fired after commanders determined he filed a false report in a drug case.

The officers haven't decided whether to appeal, said their lawyer, who likened the investigation that led to their firings to "the Spanish Inquisition."

Officer Christopher Toth, 40, a Tucson policeman since October 1994, was placed under investigation after an 18-year-old woman complained that he, while off duty, stopped next to her in traffic and commented on her tattoo and later showed up several times where she works, said Assistant Police Chief Kermit Miller.

The woman also told investigators that an officer who she thinks was Toth followed her in his patrol car as she drove home, Miller said.

Miller said detectives learned of an earlier incident in which it is thought Toth stopped another officer's girlfriend on suspicion of speeding, let her go without ticketing her and then showed up at her house, where he was waiting when she got home, Miller said.

During the traffic stop, Miller said, Toth commented to the woman on "how lucky her boyfriend is."

Toth at some point used his police car computer to send "inappropriate" comments to another officer asking about the woman's officer-boyfriend, Miller said.

Miller said Toth told investigators when the woman in the traffic stop left he thought she was driving too fast again and she ran a yellow traffic light, so he went to her home to give her another warning.

But, Miller said, the woman told investigators when she encountered Toth outside her home he did not mention her driving. Miller said Toth should have pulled in behind the woman and clocked her speed if he thought she sped away from the traffic stop, but he took a different route to her home.

He talked to her briefly, Miller said, but he could not recall about what, and left when she said she had to change clothes for work.

Toth was suspended for a week last year in the incident involving the 18-year old. He was fired because of allegations he violated general standards of conduct, improper use of the police computer and lying about his actions, Miller said.

In the other case, Christopher Suda, 27, a Tucson officer since November 1999, stopped a known low-level drug dealer after spotting him making a drug transaction while Suda was on patrol on the West Side, Miller said.

During the encounter, Miller said, Suda seized a small amount of crack cocaine from the man, but decided not to arrest him and to try to use him as a confidential informant.

To do that, Suda filed a report saying he found the crack, which he turned in to the police evidence section.

For some reason, officers in Suda's patrol division started talking and joking about Suda finding the crack, and one of his commanders decided to read the report. The commander noticed discrepancies between what was being said about the case and what was in the report and had the case investigated, Miller said.

Suda was fired on allegations of lying in filing a false report, failing to seek a senior officer's or supervisor's advice on how to handle enlisting a suspect as an informant, omitting information from his report on criminal activity he had witnessed, trying to develop a confidential informant without following police procedure, and violating the department's code of ethics.

Miller did not have dates for the various events leading to the firings.

Personal use of a police computer and filing a false police report are crimes, Miller said, but the County Attorney's Office declined prosecution of Toth and Suda.

Attorney Mike Storie, who represents Toth and Suda, said he has filed a notice of intent to appeal the firings with the city's Human Resources Department to protect the former officers' right to appeal.

Storie said neither man has decided whether to appeal. Storie said the police investigation into the incidents "is like the Spanish Inquisition ... as soon as you deny the allegation, you're untruthful."

Toth, in August 1996, was involved in a shooting when he and three other officers shot and killed a man who fired at them with a rifle at the man's ex-wife's home in the 9900 block of East Buckshot Circle.

Suda was involved in a fatal shooting Feb. 22 when he, two other officers and a sergeant fired at a man who rammed a police car, endangering the officers, at an apartment complex at 455 W. Kelso St.

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