Dec. 8--The Sacramento Fire Department said Thursday that its probe into missing morphine has concluded that 43 sealed vials of the powerful narcotic kept on board its fire engines were tampered with and their contents stolen.
But officials say the investigation into the thefts has hit a dead end.
Capt. Jim Doucette, a department spokesman, offered new details of the investigation after officials had refused to disclose those details for months.
Doucette said department officials first discovered that the seals on morphine vials were tampered with in November 2005 -- months earlier than previously believed.
Officials then launched a full investigation when they discovered after laboratory tests that the morphine inside some vials had been stolen and replaced with water.
"The case remains open, but it has hit a dead end," Doucette said. "Unless something new surfaces, we can't take it any further."
There have been no new thefts of morphine since Sacramento County's Emergency Medical Services director, citing security concerns, on Aug. 23 ordered drug kits removed from all the Fire Department's firetrucks and engines after an audit.
The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration was notified of the morphine theft, as required by federal law governing controlled substances, and DEA officials have been assisting the Sacramento Police Department's criminal investigation since Aug. 30.
Several unidentified Fire Department employees who had access to the narcotics kits were questioned. Firefighter union officials expressed concern that the department may have an addict in its ranks and urged the perpetrator to come forward to get help.
Doucette said the department is complying with the county's order to implement stricter controls over the narcotics supplies on its fire engines and they are in the process of being approved by Sacramento County's Emergency Medical Services director.
Doucette said he hopes narcotics kits are returned to fire engines -- they had remained in locked boxes on Fire Department ambulances -- by Jan. 1.
An internal memo The Bee obtained under the Public Records Act revealed that until the thefts occurred, the Sacramento Fire Department had checked the drug supplies on its fire engines and trucks only once a month, which officials acknowledged was inadequate. These will now be checked daily.
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