Columbus Police Officer Fights To Keep Badge After Pain Pill Investigation

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UPDATED: Monday July 21, 2014 6:27 PM

10TV broke the story of the investigation of Officer Matthew Freetage last month.

The Chief of Police decided Freetage should be fired for his misconduct, but that's not the final word on this case.  As Freetage fights to keep his badge, we're hearing from him directly for the first time.

Freetage has declined our requests for comment on this story, but 10TV has obtained audio recordings of his disciplinary hearing with Chief Kim Jacobs, where he admits mistakes, but says he still deserves to keep his job.

The Internal Affairs investigation of Columbus Police Officer Matt Freetage began after a confidential informant came to police, alleging Freetage had tried to buy pills from her.

A Fraternal Order of Police attorney says Freetage's dealings with the informant began with purely professional interests:

"In 2011 she told him that she might be able to obtain information on a large supplier of Vicodin or Percocet,” said Robert Byard during Freetage’s disciplinary hearing. “She wanted his help to bust that supplier. And he agreed to help her in that endeavor. His intent was to take whatever concrete information he could obtain from her and pass it along to Narcotics."

But no one else at the Division of Police was aware of that investigation, something Police Chief Kim Jacobs questioned Freetage about:

"Did you tell your supervisor about the work you were doing with her?” asked Jacobs.

“No,” answered Freetage.

“And you didn't tell Narcotics about the work you were doing with her?” asked Jacobs.

“Some of it,” answered Freetage. “This particular, no."

Freetage says in mid-2013, he suffered a shoulder injury.  Shortly after, he admits to asking the informant about purchasing pain pills for his personal use.  She told investigators that while in uniform, he accepted six Vicodin pills from her.

In a text conversation after, he appears to ask for more:

"What would it take for me to get another bottle from u? This time with more than 6...LOL" he texted the informant.

She responded, "Do you need v's or p's?"

Freetage answered, "Whatever is better! Lol"

"You don't deny that those were your text messages?” asked Jacobs.

“Correct," he answered.

But Freetage insists those texts were part of his investigation, not for his personal use.

Still, he acknowledges mistakes.  "I know I've let down not only you but everybody else that I've ever been around, worked for, with,” Freetage said, his voice breaking. “For that I'm sorry. I screwed up."

Jacobs sounds unmoved.

"This type of behavior is totally outside our core values. You work Patrol. You don't work Narcotics."  Jacobs said. "If you're doing it the right way, generally people report what they're doing and get the support of their supervisor or their chain of command.  That's how we do business. We don't hide it. We do it publicly."

The police union attorney representing Freetage challenged the credibility of the informant, saying she recently called Internal Affairs and admitted she and Freetage had been cooperating on a larger investigation.

Freetage has a hearing Thursday with Safety Director Mitchell Brown, who will decide whether his firing by Jacobs will stand.

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