GREENSBURG, Pa. — It’s been one week since Greensburg police chief Shawn Denning was arrested on federal drug charges. The 25-page federal indictment alleged that the chief helped distribute meth and cocaine for two years.
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In a statement released by the Westmoreland County District Attorney’s office, investigators assured the public that they plan to review any case Denning was involved in if they find it necessary: “We have a plan in place and intend to review any case that’s necessary.”
“When you have a police chief that is charged with serious crimes, and he has been on the street making arrests, it’s important to examine those arrests,” said Dr. John Cencich, a criminologist for PennWest California.
Greensburg’s former police chief Shawn Denning is now facing six charges, including aiding and abetting the distribution of drugs and conspiracy.
The complaint alleges Denning connected a confidential informant to drug dealers multiple times from June 2021 to October 2022. The complaint also says the drugs came from Arizona and California and were sent by mail.
“You can be guilty of those offenses and never put your finger on the heroin, the cocaine, the methamphetamine, or whatever drugs,” Cencich said.
On one occasion, Denning sent a picture of cocaine to the source to show him the quality and vouch for the dealer. He then sent directions on how to pay.
“Public corruption is what you have when a police officer is alleged to have been involved in drug trafficking. It’s much more serious than an ordinary drug trafficker,” explained Cencich.
Trib Live reporter Renetta Signorini has been following the case closely and cross-checked the dates from the criminal complaint when the chief and the informant would meet. She then compared those dates with court dockets detailing when chief denning made drug arrests in Greensburg.
“There were at least two occasions where I found that he was working drug arrest, drug investigations in Greensburg, and around the same time he was trying to connect the confidential informant to the drug suppliers,” said Signorini.
Experts say anywhere, but particularly in a small city of only 15,000 with 27-officer police force, these sorts of accusations can erode public trust.
“People have a right to know what the police are doing in their community,” said Signorini when asked about her reporting.
Denning, who is now out on bond, will have his case heard in front of a grand jury.
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