Following media reports that began circulating Tuesday morning, Mobile County Sheriff Sam Cochran confirmed one of his deputies had been caught “purchasing controlled substances.”

The deputy in question has not been identified pending the results of an internal investigation, though Cochran did confirm the deputy’s conduct was discovered by other MCSO employees.

The officer has since been relieved of his duties, and all of his department-issued equipment has been recovered. He’ll face a disciplinary hearing Wednesday, March 15, which could lead to his permanent termination from the force.

While the “alleged misconduct” was investigated by MCSO personnel, the deputy has not yet been charged with any criminal offense or identified to the public.

As to any possible criminal charges, Cochran said “the investigation is still ongoing” and would be turned over to the Mobile County District Attorney’s office upon completion. However, there is some recent precedent for the MCSO arresting one of its own.

In 2015, former deputy Clifton Wayne Holifield Jr. turned himself into the sheriff’s office and was charged with 12 counts of second-degree theft of property after an eight-month investigation revealed he was failing to turn controlled substances into evidence.

Mobile County Sheriff Sam Cochran.

“We are disheartened to learn that one of our members may have an addiction, however, we are not shocked when one considers on a daily basis we see across this county the epidemic of drug and alcohol abuse,” Cochran said. “We are Public Safety, and we cannot allow our employees to operate under the influence of any controlled substance.”

Cochran said his office maintains an employee assistance program from which employees can get assistance when they have a problem.

However, Cochran said “they must self-report and seek help,” while confirming that the deputy relieved of his duties this week had not.

News of the incident at MCSO prompted accusations that the deputy was receiving preferential treatment from MCSO because he’s a law enforcement officer.

However, MCSO spokesperson Lori Myles said not releasing the name of a person who has yet to be charged with a crime is a standard practice “with any investigation.”