The arrest of a Galveston Police Department officer last week was the result of a monthslong investigation involving a wire tap, new documents released Friday show.

Police officer John Rutherford, 40, was charged Feb. 23 with engaging in organized criminal activity, misuse of official information and tampering with physical evidence.

Another man, Salvador Rivera, 32, of Galveston, was arrested the same day, and accused of working with Rutherford.

After their arrest, Galveston Police Chief Vernon Hale said Rutherford betrayed his duties by helping Rivera, a suspected drug dealer, avoid arrest by giving him confidential police information. Hale also said that Rutherford put fellow officers’ lives at risk.

Charging documents released Thursday detail exactly what Rutherford is accused of.

The Galveston Police Department’s narcotics division began an investigation into a drug ring in July 2017, according to the documents. During the investigation, a confidential informant told investigators Rivera led the ring and that a Galveston police officer had been providing sensitive information to the ring, as well as helping to buy and sell drugs and confiscated contraband, according to an affidavit.

Police corroborated the information and identified Rutherford as a suspect, according to the affidavit.

Over a series of months, police, the FBI and the DEA investigated the drug ring using a wiretap and other types of surveillance, including controlled purchases of drugs and digging through trash, according to the documents.

Documents indicate the ring had been under surveillance since at least December and highlight three instances in which Rutherford is accused of helping Rivera.

On Feb. 11, Rivera was pulled over in a traffic stop, according to the documents. During the stop, Rivera contacted Rutherford — who was on duty — and asked for help, according to the documents.

Rivera told Rutherford he had a gun in his car, according to the documents.

Rutherford went to the scene and put Rivera in his patrol car, according to the documents. In the car, Rutherford turned off a video recording system to allow an unrecorded conversation between him and Rivera, according to the documents.

Police later intercepted communications between Rivera and Rutherford during which the officer said he had “knowingly terminated the video,” according to the documents.

Three days after the traffic stop, on Feb. 14, the police department assigned an officer to conduct proactive patrols near Rivera’s residence, according to the documents.

After that patrol began, Rutherford told Rivera about the assignment and advised him to be careful, according to the documents. Around the same time, police also listened as Rivera arranged to buy drugs and enlisted Rutherford’s assistance, according to an affidavit.

Rutherford agreed to follow Rivera home in his police car to help him avoid being stopped, according to the affidavit.

Rutherford and Rivera were arrested on Feb. 23.

Rivera was still in custody at the Galveston County jail on Friday afternoon. His bond was set at a total of $750,000.

Rutherford was released from the county jail Thursday after his bond was reduced to $50,000 on each charge, according to court records. He was ordered to stay away from Rivera, and to submit to drug screenings once every 30 days.

A Galveston Police Department spokesman said that Rutherford is still on administrative leave, pending an internal investigation.

John Wayne Ferguson: 409-683-5226; john.ferguson@galvnews.com or on Twitter @johnwferguson.

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(2) comments

Mike Box

Nice work Chief Hale!

Randy Chapman

It's a start. Drain the rest of the swamp.

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