The Merit Commission ruled around 7:30 p.m. Monday in case of Officer Steve Hicks. Hicks, the department's 2012 Officer of the Year and Field Training Officer of the year, was accused of inappropriately touching and interacting with a female bartender while on duty in mid-September. Chief Billy Bolin already suspended Hicks for 21 days without pay and recommended that Hicks be fired.
Before anything started Monday morning, one of the Merit Commissioners had to recuse himself, likely because of a conflict of interest with this case. Close to two dozen people were in attendance including some friends and family of the accused officer.
The hearing started around 9:15 Monday morning. The first witness called upon by the City was Lisa Turpen. Turpen was the bartender who filed the complaint against Hicks. She told the commission that on September 10th, Hicks repeatedly touched her inappropriately. Turpen said Hicks grabbed the lace around her tank top near her chest and made some suggestive comments. Tuprpen also said Hicks repeatedly went behind the bar and positioned himself in a way that allowed him to touch the small of her back and sides as she walked by. Hicks also stared at Turpen's breasts, according to Turpen. Furthermore, Hicks was at the bar for close to an hour even though he was dispatched there for merely a noise complaint.
Turpen says she felt violated but that she had to file a formal complaint.
""I felt like I'm doing the right thing," Turpen said. "I don't want anyone else to go through that. It's not fair that just because I'm a bartender that doesn't mean that I'm easy prey."
After the lunch break, the City called a probationary officer to testify. The probationary officer was with Officer Hicks on September 17th, the night of the second reported incident. This testimony proved to be some of the most compelling testimony of the day. The probationary officer testified against Hicks, his field training officer. The probationary officer testified that Hicks wanted to stop by the bar on September 17th because, 'there was a hot bartender there,' according to testimony. The internal investigation later revealed that Hicks did not notify Central Dispatch before going on this self-initiated run, which is a significant violation of EPD's standard operation procedure. The probationary officer also testified that Hicks' interaction with the female bartender made him feel uncomfortable.
Chief Bolin also testified and said Hicks neglected his duties as an Evansville Police Officer and abused his power.
Throughout today's proceedings, Hicks' attorneys have tried to discredit the witnesses and the internal investigation as a whole. Hicks' counsel says the case is a matter of 'he said, she said.'
Hicks has the right to a court appeal. It is unknown if he will seek that appeal.