The Dover Police Department is providing additional information regarding the negotiated plea of former Dover Police Officer Steven Vieira that stems from an incident that occurred in November of 2021.
On Friday, November 26, 2021, PFC Steven Vieira, Age 30, was working a regularly scheduled overnight patrol shift for the City of Dover Police Department. Just before 9:30 p.m., the Dover Police Communications Center attempted to call Vieira on the radio to dispatch him to a non-emergency call. PFC Vieira failed to answer the radio call and several attempts to contact his personal cell phone also went unanswered.
After approximately 12 minutes, Vieira was located by the dispatch team in the area of Schutte Park (Electric Avenue) with the assistance of the GPS feature installed in the patrol vehicle. Patrol Officers responded to the park and located Vieira’s patrol vehicle in a secluded area, with Vieira unconscious in the driver’s seat. Based on Vieira’s condition, responding Officers believed that he was possibly suffering from an accidental exposure to opioids/fentanyl as has happened in other agencies across the country. Those Officers administered a total of two doses of Narcan and requested emergency medical services to the scene. As a result of the Narcan treatment, PFC Vieira began to recover and was transported by ambulance to Bay Health Kent Campus for an evaluation and continued treatment.
During the search of the PFC Vieira’s patrol vehicle, investigating officers located an eyeglass case inside of PFC’s Vieira’s personal gear bag which contained several pills that could not be immediately identified and drug paraphernalia commonly used to ingest illicit drugs.
At this point, the Dover Police Department initiated a criminal investigation and following policy, a representative from the State of Delaware Department of Justice was contacted for collaboration in the investigation. After that consultation, a search warrant was obtained for Vieira’s person and blood was collected. Investigating Officers also obtained consent from PFC Vieira to search his personal vehicle, which yielded additional paraphernalia typically used for ingesting drugs.
In the early morning hours of November 27, 2021, PFC Vieira was placed on Administrative Leave by the Dover Police Department pending the outcome of both the criminal investigation and a concurrent Internal Affairs review of employee conduct. Vieira had remained suspended since the date of the incident and the Dover Police Department continued to communicate and work with the Delaware Department of Justice, who provided ongoing guidance in the investigation.
On January 11,2022, the Dover Police Department received confirmation from the Delaware Division of Forensic Science that the blood sample obtained from PFC Vieira on the night of the incident was positive for Fentanyl and Marijuana. The investigation subsequently confirmed that Vieira did not have a prescription for any opioids or for legal cannabis use.
During the investigation, a review of every drug-related arrest during Vieira’s 2 ½ years of service in law enforcement revealed no evidence of misconduct in those cases.
On March 1, 2022, Vieira officially entered into a pre-indictment plea agreement with the Department of Justice to the following charges for his conduct on November 21, 2021:
1. Official Misconduct Class A Misdemeanor
2. DUI (Drug-related) Class A Misdemeanor
The Dover Police Department and the Delaware Department of Justice included conditions of Vieira’s resignation and forfeiture of his Council on Police Training (COPT) certification as conditions of the pre-indictment plea agreement. In keeping with those conditions, former officer Vieira has now resigned from the Dover Police Department and surrendered his credentials to the Council on Police Training (COPT) which is the entity that governs police authority in Delaware.
Dover Police Chief, Thomas Johnson Jr., provided the following statement:
Prior to November 26, 2021, PFC Vieira enjoyed a law enforcement career full of promise. He was sworn into service in February of 2019. He was working independently by the early summer and over the course of the next two and a half years, he did well. He protected the Dover community and pursued additional law enforcement education. He became certified as a Field Training Officer, earned assignment to a special unit and was recently promoted to PFC. On November 26th a series of bad personal decisions, culminated in a life-threatening opioid overdose.
When viewed through a human lens, the Dover Police Department has empathy for anyone battling the challenges associated with drug abuse and connections to treatment services were offered to our employee. However; when viewed through a professional lens, this kind of behavior can never be tolerated. Not for a minute. A trust was violated. In addition to the risks to his own life, he took chances with the safety of his co-workers and members of the public that were not his to take. Through appropriate investigation, this unprofessional conduct was determined to be criminal in nature.
Once the facts were established, it became clear that Mr. Vieira could no longer be a Police Officer. The responsibilities of the job are just too serious and the public deserves the best resources that we can provide. We have already begun to examine the factors that lead up to the overdose emergency and will evaluate them against our existing code of conduct policies and early detection mechanisms. Appropriate changes to policy and/or practice will be made at the earliest possible time.
This incident is a sharp reminder that the continuing crisis of illicit substance abuse occurs in all segments of society. Identifying those affected, and getting them into treatment, is critical to saving lives and preventing addiction’s harmful side effects. If you know someone that is suffering, please try to get them help.
For available resources, please visit: www.HelpIsHereDE.com