Thursday, August 2, 2012

Why no police report?

One of the Northwest Herald news articles about the July 1st double-fatality auto crash on Davis Road described a contact that a Woodstock police officer had with the boys shortly before the 2:00am crash.

Two 16-year-old Woodstock High School boys were driving around in the family car of one of the boys. Neither had a license that was valid early that Sunday morning. Graduated Driver's Licenses have restricted hours, and the holder of such a license is not to be driving between 11:00PM Saturday and 6:00AM Sunday, if he is just driving around.

The officer reportedly asked the boys if they were old enough to smoke, according to the newspaper article, and the article mentioned that the boys had just switched positions in the car and that the boy who was not related to the owner of the car was behind the wheel.

In response to a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request to the Woodstock Police Department, the FOIA officer said that no documents responsive to my request were found. I could not imagine that there would not be a written report, and I requested a more diligent search. The same answer was received today.

I cannot imagine circumstances under which an officer would not make a written report on a contact with two boys who died in a single-car crash minutes after speaking with the officer. While the officer might not have made a report (he should have made Contact cards on both boys) immediately after a seemingly unimportant contact, as soon as he learned of the crash, he should have filed a complete report about his contact with them.

There are numerous reasons for this, not the least of which is that the City could end up squarely in the middle of a lawsuit. For this reason it should be well-documented exactly what the contact consisted of.

Was it just a "casual" contact? When an officer speaks with two young teenagers between 1-2:00AM, there is nothing "casual" about it. If he had reason to ask them anything about smoking, he should have asked for identification. Why did he think they might be smoking? As it turned out, one boy had three IDs on him that were not his. Two belonged to an older brother, and a third had a completely different name on it.

Had the officer checked IDs and understood that a Graduated Driver's License didn't allow either to drive (and so how did they plan to leave where they were and get home, and get that car home?), then he could at least have summoned the parents to pick up the car and the boys. And they'd probably both be alive today.

If this police contact occurred (and I have no reason to think that a reporter would write about it, if it hadn't), then the police chief should immediately direct the officer and his supervisor to account for that report. If a lawsuit is filed three years from now, it'll be too late then to write the report.


Maverick50 said...

What is the Officers name? The reporter should have this.
Is this going to me another "GOOD OLD BOY" cover up?
I feel the parents and the people have the right to know which police officer was not doing his or her job! Four deaths on a stretch of road that is not even two miles long. And eight accidents in less than twenty years. WTH is going on.

Gus said...

I don't know the officer's name (yet).

I suspect he is second-guessing himself. I know I would be.

If I gave two kids a break and ten minutes later they were dead, I'll feel terrible.

Mike said...

I am not familiar with th dispatch system used in Woodstock but if it is like the ones used by depts. in Will County it is a CAD (computer aided dispatch). In that system, unless the officer had just spoken to the boys and ran them on his in car computer there was probably a "call" or CAD incident of some sort created. If the contact was part of a traffic stop I am certain there was. If Woodstock is part of a central dispatch set up with other towns, it is frequently it's own entity and keeps it's own records. If it is send a FOIA request for their records. They may give you a song and dance that they are not a public entity but if they are like the ones down here they are part of the IMRF retirement system for public employees. That would seem to indicate the dispatch system is a govt. entity. As for the contact card being filled out that is not always the case. As a matter of fact the depts I have worked for did not use them much. Not knowing more about this incident the cop may have just been trying give the kids a pass so as not to cause them problems with their new drivers licenses. In hind sight not a good idea but it does happen.