Although Avila isn’t in trouble with the law, his future with the police force is undetermined, authorities confirmed.
According to a search warrant affidavit, the officer picked up a box containing five pounds of marijuana from a UPS Store employee on November 25 of last year. The K-9 police veteran took the parcel and radioed to dispatch that a formal report of the incident would follow.
But the marijuana he carried from the shop that afternoon was never booked into evidence at the precinct. And the report he promised in the follow-up to the call for service, which he had specifically asked dispatchers to assign to him, was never filed.
Instead, the drugs ended up in his Oakley home.
Avila has been on paid administrative leave since September, pending an internal investigation. He has become the subject of an internal affairs investigation that implies a breach of departmental protocol.
“It is [the Contra Costa County DA’s office’s] belief and opinion that Richmond Police Officer Joe Avila intentionally collected drug evidence from the Richmond UPS store on 11/25/13 and kept it for his personal use or use for sale,” reads the search warrant’s statement of probable cause.
“Individuals who possess more than 28.5 [grams] of Marijuana are commonly known to possess such amounts for sell [sic] for profit.”
When questioned, Avila told investigators that he used 2 pounds of the marijuana to train his partner Bosco, a drug-sniffing dog.
Detective Hector Esparza, President of the Richmond Police Officer’s Association (POA), agreed that Avila’s explanation is plausible.
“There’s no criminal element in this whatsoever,” Esparza said.
“In my opinion it’s a purely administrative matter. K-9 officers use narcotics for training their dogs, it’s how they keep them up to speed.”
According to police sources, Richmond police officers are required to follow strict guidelines about labeling, packaging and storing potential evidence and must file a police report before the end of their shift unless special circumstances dictate they can’t.