BUFFALO (WKBW) The former Buffalo Police Officer who was arrested and fired last month, accused of running a major pot growing operation, may have had a history with both drugs and the law.
While multiple sources will not comment on these accusations, the Buffalo News claims that Jorge Melendez was a confidential informant for the FBI before he was hired on Buffalo's Police Force.
The story states Melendez was caught in a drug deal, and then cooperated with authorities in New York City before coming to buffalo and joining the Buffalo Police Department in 2008.
"I can't discuss that at this point and I won't go into that story," Police Commissioner Daniel Derenda said.
The FBI would not confirm or deny any relationship, citing Department of Justice policy. Even Melendez's Defense Attorney Jeremy Schwartz would not comment, but did say his client was never arrested or charged with any crime before the drug bust this past May.
"I was very disturbed that this information was put out there. True or not, it can be very dangerous information that we are talking about," Schwartz said.
When asked how a potential former informant for the FBI could be hired as a Buffalo Police Officer, Commissioner Daniel Derenda had this to say.
"About ten years ago, the police department stopped doing the background investigations, stopped doing the polygraphs. It fell to human resources who took over. So I can't explain what they did or didn't do, I have no knowledge of that, how they conduct their investigations," he said.
And as city officials work to clean up waste and fraud among the police department, both the Commissioner and the Mayor vowed to look into changing the hiring policy, to prevent things like this from slipping through the cracks.
"In the future I will be discussing with human resources the possibility of having those investigations fall back on the police department, and that's something we are looking into," Derenda said.
"The commissioner has already approached me about the possibility of having background checks for police officers restored to the Buffalo Police Department. We're going to look at that and we're going to certainly evaluate the situation, but (I'm) not happy about it at all," Mayor Brown said.
Both Melendez and another man, Jason Elardo, are charged with a slew of drug charges resulting from the federal raid last month. If convicted, both could face up to 40 years in prison, a 4-million dollar fine, or both. They are scheduled to be back in court later this month.