Reported By: Jordan Vandenberge
In light of allegations the department deems serious, the Evansville Police Department investigates one of it's own. A decorated Evansville Police officer is now on paid administrative leave due to allegations of misconduct.
The Evansville Police Department's 2012 Officer of the Year, Steve Hicks, is a nine-year veteran. Multiple sources with direct knowledge say Hicks is the officer that was placed on paid administrative leave pending an internal investigation.
EPD could not comment on the identity of the officer because of the collective bargaining agreement with the Fraternal Order of Police. The department could, however, confirm that an investigation is underway. Officials say the officer accused of misconduct made a statement to Internal Affairs on Friday as part of the ongoing investigation.
"Just like any other investigation that we're involved with, we go where the evidence takes us," said Evansville Police Sgt. Jason Cullum.
The evidence, according to police, takes them to Rick's 718 Bar near Columbia and Third.
Earlier this month, sources say Officer Hicks, who works second-shift motor patrol, was dispatched to the bar. Officials say that's when the on-duty officer first spoke with a female employee.
About a week later, according to police, the officer who sources identify as Officer Hicks, came back on a self-initiated run.
"During both of those incidents, the female said she was made to feel uncomfortable by some of the things that the officer said and some of the things that he did," said Sgt. Cullum. "That's what we're looking into."
Sources say this interaction between Officer Hicks and the woman could be seen in the open by other bar patrons. Those patrons later notified other officers whom they were friends with. Those officers, according to police, later notified Internal Affairs.
"We actually initiated contact with [the woman] to see if she had any comments or concerns that she wanted to share with us based on what we heard from patrons that were in the bar at the time," said Sgt. Cullum. "We have spoken with her and her statement is part of the investigation."
EPD's Internal Affairs unit is now investigating the complaint filed against the officer's alleged inappropriate behavior toward the female employee. Sgt. Cullum says the department is taking the complaint seriously as it does every complaint.
This complaint, however, comes against one of EPD's Field Training Officers who was on-duty at the time, according to sources.
"We don't always remove an officer from the street or put them on administrative leave based solely on an allegation," said Sgt. Cullum. "It just depends on the seriousness of the allegation and what information is immediately available. In this case, we felt it was necessary to remove him from duty and place him on administrative leave."
"We weed out the bad apples. Unfortunately, we're not immune to problem employees just like any other public agency, any other corporation. People can end up in your ranks that make bad decisions."
Not only was Officer Hicks the department's 2012 Officer of the Year, but he was also the 2012 Field Training Officer of the Year. You could say he was a rising star in the Evansville Police Department, but now his future at the department could very much be in question.
Reported By: Jordan Vandenberge