An Oak Bluffs Police internal investigation reveals that a condo owned by former Det. James Morse was being used to peddle large amounts of cocaine and possibly meth, though the officer was not implicated in the drug dealing.
Morse, who is also a licensed attorney, was terminated on Friday, Nov. 9, for unauthorized use of FBI background checks. His use of the database came out during an investigation into what the 23-year veteran knew about two or three 1- to 2-kilogram packages of cocaine delivered to his tenant at his West Falmouth condominium. The street value of a single kilo can be upwards of $40,000.
The new information comes from an internal investigation conducted by Oak Bluffs Lt. Timothy Williamson, which was released Friday after a public records request by The Times. The report is heavily redacted, including the name of the tenant and the name of the law enforcement agency conducting the drug investigation, although it does refer to an unnamed state trooper.
The names are redacted, Williamson told The Times, under exemption F of the public records law, which allows withholding information so as not to compromise an ongoing investigation.
Morse was terminated through a mutual separation agreement reached between the officer and the town.
Oak Bluffs Police were first contacted by law enforcement on Oct. 9. The person told Oak Bluffs Police that packages of cocaine were delivered to Morse’s condo in West Falmouth, though there was “no indication or information that Morse had any involvement in the activity other that [sic] he believed that Morse rented a room to the target.”
The unidentified tenant, who moved out in September after he failed to pay rent, was also “under surveillance over the summer months doing hand-to-hand drug transactions on a beach in Falmouth, and they believe he was selling methamphetamine,” the report states.
Morse passed a drug test administered after the internal investigation was launched.
Williamson, who conducted the investigation along with Sgt. Nicholas Curelli and Sgt. Michael Marchand, came up with questions to ask Morse. It’s those questions that led to the further investigation of Morse’s use of the FBI Criminal Justice Information System (CJIS). Asked about his use of CJIS, or CORI, the state database, on the tenant, Morse provided the following answer: “On advice of counsel, I refuse to answer this question exercising my rights under Carney vs. Springfield and Article 12 and 14 of the Massachusetts Declaration of Rights.”
Based on that answer, Williamson ordered an audit of Morse’s CJIS and National Crime Information Center queries over the past year.
“Sgt. Curelli noted a large amount of names Morse ran that did not coincide with any current cases or activity in QED,” the report states. The names were cross-referenced with targets of drug investigations, and none of the names were recognized, according to the report.
“Based on the information of a lack of any official reason Detective Morse would have made the checks on these individuals, Sgt. Curelli came up with a set of 40 questions specifically tailored to questions to inquire as to the reason Det. Morse would be running these individuals through the CJIS system, specifically if it was in his official duties and responsibilities or something else.”
That section is followed by nearly five pages that are completely redacted.
According to the investigation, none of the names run by Morse were part of the drug investigation.
When Morse was confronted with the audit, he again responded repeatedly with the same answer he gave initially.
“At this point in the investigation [Chief Erik Blake] contacted [town administrator] Robert Whritenour and Jack Collins to discuss termination/separation of Detective Morse specifically for the CJIS violations,” the report states.
Morse was cited for conduct unbecoming a police officer, and the report stated that he may have also violated the department’s rule for association with known criminals. The investigation also found that he violated the department’s rules for use of CJIS.
“Through this investigation it appears that Detective Morse was using the department’s CJIS access to obtain information on multiple individuals he ran on department computers while on duty,” the report states. “It is unclear of the motive for Detective Morse to access these individuals, as he refused to answer our questions by exercising his constitutional rights. I can only surmise that it was not for any official police business.”
Prior to being terminated, Morse had been on paid administrative leave, according to the report. The separation agreement will pay him $20,614 in vacation and comp time. He is also being allowed to seek his retirement, but won’t be able to receive unemployment benefits. Under the terms of the agreement, Morse has agreed not to disparage the town on social media.
Attempts to reach Morse by phone and text were unsuccessful.