- Associated Press - Friday, November 6, 2015

TUCSON, Ariz. (AP) - The supervisor of a drug investigation unit in the Sierra Vista Police Department was forced to resign after officials say they discovered he was having a sexual relationship with a confidential informant.

Cpl. Michael Mitchell began the relationship with the woman around May, and the department learned about it in July, when it launched an internal investigation, acting police chief Adam Thrasher said. The FBI also is investigating Mitchell.

Police discovered that Mitchell had taken the informant’s cellphone out of a truck that was seized as evidence after the driver led police on high-speed chase. Thrasher said he believes the officer took it so that he could continue communicating with the informant, who was a passenger and is not facing criminal charges.

Phone numbers listed for Mitchell were disconnected. He resigned at the end of October after being told he faced termination. Emails to the Sierra Vista Officers’ Association were not immediately returned.

About 17 felony drug cases in which Mitchell was a witness had to be dropped because he was on leave while police investigated him, Thrasher said. The department is looking into whether it can pursue the cases again without him.

“It’s a painful experience especially because our officers work so hard to do good for the public. They’re here to serve, they really do their best to do what’s best,” Thrasher said. “Just like anything else, the actions of one person can affect the lives of all the officers.”

Sierra Vista is a small department covering an area near the border with Mexico. A bulk of the job is investigating drug crimes, Thrasher said.

Mitchell, a 12-year veteran, had been disciplined before for less serious infractions. In one case, he got in trouble for confronting a group of teenagers who were setting off fireworks near his home.

Thrasher said the department forwarded its investigation to the Arizona Peace Officer Standards and Training Board, which can revoke officers’ state certification.

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