Police Chief Recommends Dismissal of Officer

In an update to a story Eyewitness News first broke last week, Evansville Police Chief Billy Bolin has recommended the firing of an officer who was accused of inappropriate behavior toward a woman.

In an update to a story Eyewitness News first broke last week, Evansville Police Chief Billy Bolin has recommended the firing of an officer who was accused of inappropriate behavior toward a woman.

On September 18th 2013, the Evansville Police Department Internal Affairs started it's investigation into allegations that an on-duty officer violated multiple department rules and regulations. The allegations stemmed from the officers interaction with a female at a local bar. Multiple sources have identified that officer as Officer Steve Hicks, a nine year veteran of the Evansville Police Department. Because of EPD's collective bargaining agreement with the Fraternal Order of Police, police cannot comment on the identity of the officer. 

Hicks, a 9 year veteran of the department with 14 years in law enforcement, was named EPD's Officer of the Year in 2012 as well as 2012 Field Training Officer.

Police say the Internal Affairs investigation has been completed after interviewing witnesses and collecting surveillance video. Multiple sources with direct knowledge tell Eyewitness News that the officer, who sources identify as Officer Hicks, was dispatched to Rick's 718 Bar for a noise complaint earlier this month. A week later, sources and police say the officer came back on a self-initiated run. During both of those instances, police say the woman the officer was talking to was made to feel uncomfortable.

As part of the investigation, internal affairs collected statements from witnesses and as well as surveillance video. The investigation determined the officer allegedly violated multiple department rules and regulations.

"We don't mass produce police officers at a factory somewhere that are incapable of having issues," said EPD Sgt. Jason Cullum. "What the public has to remember is that when these issues come up, we do take steps. Hopefully the public trust isn't broken but if the public trust is broken, we do everything we can do to repair that." 

 The officer began serving his 21-day, unpaid suspension Monday night, police say. Upon receiving the Chief’s recommendations, the Merit Commission will hear the case at an upcoming meeting, perhaps as early as October 14th. The Merit  Commission creates it's own agenda and schedule so it's not exactly clear when the suspended officer's case will be heard.

"The Chief is only allowed to suspend without pay for up to 21 days, which [Chief Bolin] has done," said EPD Sgt. Jason Cullum. "The Merit Commission ultimately upholds that suspension but he has also asked that they terminate employment. That is the most serious recommendation that any Chief of Police can make."

Eyewitness News attempted to contact the suspended officer. While he said he did not want to comment, the officer says he plans on appealing.

We'll continue to follow this story.

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PREVIOUSLY REPORTED

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.

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