Halifax Regional Police say they caught a deputy sheriff in a drug deal Friday, and they allege the drugs were destined for the jail system.
The 40-year-old deputy sheriff and a 22-year-old woman were arrested separately Friday after investigators spotted a drug transaction at a Dartmouth strip mall parking lot just before 9 a.m., police said in a statement.
Sources told CBC News the woman, who was arrested after the transaction, is the girlfriend of Jimmy Melvin Jr., currently serving time at the Central Nova Scotia Correctional Facility in Burnside.
Police allege Melvin Jr. and members of his family are embroiled in a violent drug turf war in the Halifax area.
The justice worker, who has been with the Department of Justice for five years and who was wearing his uniform, was picked up at the Dartmouth courthouse, while the woman was arrested nearby at a traffic stop at Chadwick and Pleasant streets.
Deputy sheriffs provide security at courthouses in Nova Scotia and escort prisoners to and from jail. Police said investigators believe the drugs would have ended up in the corrections system.
Justice Minister Ross Landry said he's disappointed one of his justice employees has been arrested.
"It raises a concern," he said. "What's good out of this situation, if one wants to look at the positive, is that the system is working — drugs are prevented from going into the institution. That's our goal and if any of our employees are involved in drug usage we have a zero tolerance policy and we adhere to that strongly."
The police investigation continues and charges are expected.
Landry said his department has launched an internal investigation. He said the employee has been suspended with pay pending the outcome of the case.
The justice minister said he believes this is the first time that a deputy sheriff is accused of trying to get drugs into a provincial facility.
Former justice minister Cecil Clarke said if the deputy sheriff is found guilty, the sentence should be stiff.
"Message needs to be sent with all of the law enforcement and justice system that this is something that's not tolerable. They're there to help with enforcing the laws, not themselves break it," he said.
The deputy sheriff and the woman are expected to be arraigned on Tuesday.