Staff writers

MARTINEZ -- Attorneys with the Contra Costa County Public Defender's office say the admitted addiction of a Concord police officer charged with stealing prescription drugs from senior citizens may jeopardize an untold number of criminal convictions in which he participated.

Matthew Switzer, a 12-year-veteran of the Concord Police Department, is charged with two counts of first-degree burglary, one count of second-degree burglary, one count of fraudulently obtaining prescription drugs and one count of elder abuse His schedule arraignment was postponed Tuesday afternoon in Contra Costa Superior Court; he is being held in lieu of $480,000 bail at the County Jail in Martinez.

Switzer's attorney, Harry Stern, said the hearing was delayed because he is still evaluating aspects of the case and that the two sides are in the process of discovery. Switzer is next scheduled to appear in court April 21.

"It's a breakneck, 180-degree turn for someone used to being on the other side of the bars," Stern said. "These addictions are completely irrational. I'm not defending the behavior. I'm defending the person."

Switzer resigned his position with the Concord Police Department on Friday, the day he made his first court appearance. Stern has described Switzer as a "good officer" and "well-respected" and said he suffered a neck injury on the job and was prescribed the powerful prescription painkiller Norco for treatment.


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Stern also said Switzer suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder and that the combination of that and his neck pain led to his addiction to "pharmaceutical heroin."

Just how much that addiction may have affected Switzer's role in other cases is something the Public Defender's Office will examine, assistant public defender Elizabeth Harrigan said. Switzer was a member of the Concord PD's K-9 unit, and Harrigan said the former officer's addiction raises serious questions in cases where Switzer was central to the prosecution.

"We say this all the time, but police officers are just like everybody else, and they should be treated like you and me," Harrigan said. "So, if I have a client, and I'm dealing with a case in which the officer may have had impaired judgment, especially one who was on a K-9 unit, I'm gonna say, 'Hey, we need to rethink what happened to my client.'"

Harrigan said the office will review the cases that remain open under appeal, as well as others that already have been decided, but that it's "a long, long process."

Switzer is charged with using his status as an officer to enter the apartments of several senior citizens at a housing complex called The Heritage in downtown Concord and stealing prescription drugs. The criminal complaint also accuses him of stealing drugs from an occupational medicine facility operated by John Muir Health.

"He ended up victimizing people for his addiction," Contra Costa deputy district attorney Barry Grove said. "He actually went to their homes and used his status as a police officer to gain their trust."

Grove said that among the accusations against Switzer is that he would assign his police dog to sniff out an establishment for drugs and would keep the drugs the dog found.

"I absolutely hate having to do this kind of job," Grove said. "But ... somebody has to step up and show the public that we're committed to doing the right thing."

Concord police Chief Guy Swanger said last week he was tipped by a citizen in February that Switzer was allegedly stealing prescription drugs, sparking the investigation by the District Attorney's Office.

Contact Rick Hurd at 925-945-4789 and follow him at Twitter.com/3rdERH. Follow Gary Peterson at at Twitter.com/garyscribe.