LEWISTON — A local police officer who died in February from an accidental drug overdose pocketed drugs from a traffic stop in January, police said.

Late Lewiston police officer Nicholas Meserve crosses Ash Street in Lewiston with other officers in 2016 as they search for a man who shot at a vehicle. Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal

An independent investigation into the incident involving Officer Nicholas Meserve concluded that no other Lewiston police officers were aware of Meserve’s drug use or his possession of illegal drugs.

The incident came to public light Thursday during a plea hearing in Androscoggin County Superior Court, when prosecutors said “it appears that Officer Meserve slipped some of the drug evidence into his pants pocket while outside the view of other officers,” during the arrest of Jamil Dabson of New York and Lewiston in January.

On Thursday, prosecutors dismissed the drug charge and two related charges against Dabson in an agreement between defense attorney Donald Hornblower and prosecutors, based on Meserve’s actions during the arrest.

On Jan. 18, Meserve assisted Maine State Police with a traffic stop in Lewiston that resulted in the arrest of Dabson, who had been a passenger in a taxi whose headlights were off.

According to a press release from the Lewiston Police Department, at the scene Meserve was seen on video picking up drug evidence that had fallen to the ground.

“It appears that Officer Meserve placed some of the drug evidence into his pants pocket while outside the view of other officers,” Chief Brian O’Malley said in the statement.

The drug involved in the arrest was fentanyl.

Meserve died from acute fentanyl intoxication; his death at his home in Lewiston on Feb. 8 has been ruled accidental.

According to O’Malley’s statement, the investigation into Meserve’s actions and his death, conducted by Maine State Police, the Maine Drug Enforcement Agency and Maine Attorney General’s Office, is complete.

The chief also said all members of the Lewiston Police Department cooperated with the independent investigation, which disclosed that no officers had any knowledge of Meserve’s substance use disorder or his possession of illegal drugs.

O’Malley said that the city is negotiating with the police unions to establish a drug testing policy as a means of identifying potential substance use issues and providing resources for employees to deal with dependency or addiction issues.

The Lewiston Police Department currently offers an employee assistance program and a peer support team. Additionally, O’Malley said the department conducts regular reviews regarding an officer’s use of force, sick time usage, job performance evaluations and complaints from the public.

Meserve’s death, O’Malley said, “is a reminder that the opioid epidemic touches the lives of many in the community regardless of their wealth, race, religion or profession.”

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