DES MOINES, IOWA – A Des Moines police officer had methamphetamine and marijuana in his patrol car Tuesday morning when he was involved in at least his second traffic accident during almost five years with the department, authorities said.
Officer Brandon Singleton, 28, of Pleasant Hill crashed into a vehicle on the city’s east side, then drove away, police said. He allegedly misled co-workers about the details of the accident and was later arrested.
Police said it didn’t appear Singleton had the drugs in his car for legitimate reasons. He was charged with drug possession and a traffic offense.Singleton and the city of Des Moines also are being sued over a 2010 traffic accident.
Police Sgt. Chris Scott said Singleton apparently crashed his vehicle around 1 a.m. Tuesday in the 3800 block of East Ovid Avenue. A neighbor told police he heard a noise and saw a police car at the scene.
Over five hours later, at 6:34 a.m., Singleton told dispatchers he needed help changing a tire in the 2600 block of Dean Avenue — over three miles away. A police supervisor noticed damage on the patrol car that didn’t add up with Singleton’s description of what had happened: The car had two flat tires and some body damage, Scott said.
An officer allegedly spotted marijuana in the car. That prompted a search that turned up meth and drug paraphernalia, police said. Scott said there was no indication Singleton was under the influence of any illegal substance when he was arrested, although a long time had passed since the accident.
Scott did not specify how much meth and marijuana was found, but he said the amounts led police to think the drugs were for personal use, rather than part of an investigation or an arrest.
The investigation was already in progress when the owner of the damaged car from the hit-and-run called police Tuesday morning. Officers examined the damage to both vehicles and concluded that Singleton was involved, Scott said.
He did not have information on where Singleton may have been between the initial accident and his call for service.
Scott said he could not comment on Singleton’s history with the department, which he joined in 2007. He did say that Singleton was known as a “hard worker” among the officers on his shift.
Singleton is charged with possession of marijuana, possession of methamphetamine and possession of drug paraphernalia, as well as hit-and-run. He was booked at the Polk County Jail about 4:50 p.m. Tuesday, but he was released at 5:20 p.m. on the condition that he attends court proceedings. No initial court date was available. He was not required to post bond, the Polk County Sheriff‘s Office said.
Police placed Singleton on paid leave pending an investigation. His most recent salary was not available Tuesday.
Polk County court records show a Brandon Singleton the same age as the Des Moines officer was arrested for misdemeanor cocaine possession in 2003 — a charge that Polk County authorities later declined to prosecute in 2004.
Singleton was hired by the Des Moines police department in 2007.
Singleton, and the city of Des Moines, also face a trial in May in a civil lawsuit stemming from a 2010 traffic accident with a woman who was driving past Singleton’s stopped police car. Attorney John Nemminger said Jo Ann Meyer was driving on Southeast 14th Street when Singleton pulled into traffic and struck her vehicle. The incident caused less than $1,000 of damage, Nemminger said, but was fatal to Meyer’s older-model car.
“He seemed like a pretty good guy, frankly,” Nemminger said of the officer. “He was honest and forthright about his part of it.”
Court records show Brandon Singleton, 28, also faces a foreclosure lawsuit on a Pleasant Hill townhome. Records show the homeowners’ association won a small claims judgment against him last September for $2,420 in unpaid fees.
Scott, the police spokesman, declined to release any recordings from Singleton’s vehicle or radio communications, saying they were evidence for the investigation.
He said officials do review the criminal histories of prospective police officers. In the case of past drug use or arrests, Scott said, the department looks at factors including frequency and the length of time that has passed since a person used a drug or was arrested.
While Scott was not aware of Singleton’s 2003 drug arrest, he said that any committee hiring him as an officer would have reviewed the charge.
“I’m sure that the committee that hired him felt that he’d made a bad mistake and he’d learned from it and moved on,” he said.
Scott said he could not remember a similar incident during his 11 years with Des Moines police.