After each of his four surgeries, one for his back, another for his shoulder and two more for his knees, Peter Breitnauer took hydrocodone prescribed by his doctors.
In each case, he was cut off at some point.
The problem, Breitnauer's defense lawyer said this week, is that the Kenmore police chief was still in pain.
"It's an all too familiar story," said defense attorney Thomas Eoannou. "It's really a problem with the medical profession, and I'm not afraid to say that."
Eoannou's comments came three days after Breitnauer, a 34-year veteran of the Kenmore police force, was arrested and charged with possession of hydrocodone.
"They're ruining good and decent people," Eoannou said of the opioids that led to his client's arrest. "Where are these people supposed to turn?"
Prosecutors say the chief admitted being an addict and showed FBI agents a closet in his office containing more than 100 pills.
Breitnauer is accused of stealing the painkillers from a community drop-off box at Kenmore Police headquarters.
"Just because someone takes a pill, it doesn't make him an addict," Eoannou said of the allegations.
Eoannou stopped short of criticizing prosecutors but indicated he will seek a diversion program for his client and, if there is a conviction, an expungement of that conviction.
"Here's a guy who's been publicly destroyed," he said.
After Breitnauer's arrest, an official with a statewide criminal defense association raised questions about the prosecution. He thinks it's the type of case better suited for a pretrial diversion program.
The chief, after all, is a user and there are no allegations that he sold or distributed the drugs that he allegedly stole.
"Of all the failed approaches of the war on drugs, prosecuting users, abusers and addicts is one of the least effective," said Timothy Hoover, a Buffalo criminal defense lawyer and vice president of the New York State Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers.
Hoover said a pretrial diversion program would have allowed Breitnauer to receive federally supervised treatment for his drug use and, if he successfully completed the program, avoid a criminal prosecution.
He said pretrial diversions are a well-established alternative in the federal criminal justice system and yet are rarely used by prosecutors.
Breitnauer, a lifelong village resident, became police chief in 2012 after six years as assistant police chief.
When he joined the force in 1984, Breitnauer was Kenmore's fire chief. His son, Peter D. Breitnauer, later became head of the volunteer fire department.
The charge against him carries a maximum penalty of one year in prison.