Moline appoints interim chief of police

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UPDATE: Robert T. Finney of Champaign, Illinois has been appointed the interim chief of police for Moline, effective November 19.

It is contingent on the approval by the City Council next Tuesday.

Here is the full news release from Moline City Administrator Douglas K. Maxeiner:

Lieutenant Dave Gass has been serving as the Acting Chief for the Moline Police Department since September 8th. He has served the City well in this capacity leading the Department through the disruption surrounding Chief Hitchcock’s departure and providing a steady hand at the helm during the recent shooting and homicide investigation in downtown Moline. Due to some vacancies in the Department, there is a need to have Lt. Gass return to his regular assignment in the Services Division. I
appreciate Lt. Gass’s willingness to accept the added responsibility of the Acting Chief role during the last several weeks and want to commend him on what he has been able to accomplish during this time period.

While the search for a new Police Chief for the City of Moline is underway, it is not anticipated to be complete until mid to late February. As such, an experienced Interim Chief is needed to lead the Department until the new Chief is selected. With the assistance of the Illinois Association of Chiefs of Police (ILACP), I have been able to review the qualifications of several qualified candidates for this opportunity.

I am pleased to announce the appointment of Robert T. Finney of Champaign, Illinois as the Interim Chief of Police for Moline which will be effective November 19th contingent upon the approval of an employment agreement by the City Council next Tuesday. Mr. Finney has over 30 years of law enforcement service including Chief of Police for Carbondale for approximately four years (1999-03) and Champaign where he retired after serving as Chief from 2003-12. Finney has a Master’s Degree from Western Illinois University and successfully completed the Northwestern University School of Police Staff and Command, the FBI National Academy, and the Law Enforcement Executive Development course conducted by the FBI. Upon retirement, Finney served as Interim Chief in a number of municipalities in Illinois including Bloomington and East Peoria.

He is also active in professional law enforcement associations and has served as an assessor for the Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies (CALEA). Finney will be residing in Moline during his tenure as Interim Chief. His salary will be approximately $2,600 per week. Lt. Gass will continue as Acting Chief until Finney’s start date on November 19th.

UPDATE: Former Moline Police Chief John Hitchcock filed a written plea of guilty in Scott County Court on Tuesday after being cited for OWI in September.

He was scheduled to make an appearance for a pre-trial hearing today.

Hitchcock retired in October.

Hitchcock was cited for OWI and speeding in September. He had pleaded not guilty in October, waiving his scheduled court appearance that time as well.

EARLIER UPDATE

Moline Police Chief John Hitchcock is retiring effective immediately, according to a news release from Moline City Administrator Doug Maxeiner.

Here is the full statement: 

Earlier today, Police Chief John Hitchcock notified my office of his intent to retire effective immediately.  We had several discussions over the weekend and he understands the issues and challenges of the public’s perception if he came back to the Moline Police Department which led to his decision.  He stated to me that he wants to do what is best for the men and women of the Moline Police Department and the citizens of Moline.  

Despite the circumstances of this recent traffic stop, those that were fortunate enough to have served with John will speak of his honor and the high degree of integrity exhibited throughout his nearly 27 year law enforcement career.  The improvements exhibited by the Police Department under his command were exemplary.  His retirement from the department is a significant loss for the City.    

Moving forward, preparations have begun to commence a search for a new police chief.     

EARLIER UPDATE

Moline Police Chief John Hitchcock waived his scheduled court appearance on Thursday and filed a written arraignment and plea of not guilty on Wednesday. 

EARLIER UPDATE

The two police department captains that were in the vehicle at the time Moline Police Chief John Hitchcock was stopped for OWI have been given five-day suspensions.

City Administrator Doug Maxeiner released a statement Wednesday. Here it is in full:

Chief Hitchcock’s traffic stop on September 7th, the subsequent charges against Hitchcock, and the presence of Captains Fisk and Johnson in the vehicle have been documented in the news media.  The City of Moline conducted an independent investigation on the events that transpired immediately before, during, and after the traffic stop.  The investigation of the role of Captains Fisk and Johnson is now complete and a disciplinary hearing was held on Monday, October 1st for the two Captains.   

Typically, employees have a right to privacy on disciplinary matters which is afforded to them by law.  In this instance, Captains Fisk and Johnson expressed their desire to have this information released to the public.   

The findings resulting from the investigation and hearing as to the role of the Captains are as follow:

1.      There was no consumption of alcohol within the vehicle by any of the parties nor were any laws broken by Fisk and Johnson in their actions.

2.      All parties in Hitchcock’s vehicle cooperated fully with the Iowa State Police at the time of the traffic stop.  In addition, there is no indication or suggestion that any of the occupants used their positions as law enforcement officers to influence the actions of the Iowa State trooper or the legal system in this incident.  

3.      Johnson and Fisk, as a result of witnessing the consumption of alcohol by Chief Hitchcock on September 7th, should have taken action to prevent him from operating a motor vehicle.

Based on the findings, I find discipline is warranted for the failure of the Captains to act to prevent Hitchcock from operating a motor vehicle while impaired.  Members of the Moline Police Department are held to a high standard and the standard for the leadership team is even greater.  As such, I have issued a five-day suspension for Captains Fisk and Johnson.  While this discipline is substantial, the circumstances rise above the level of a written warning. 

It’s worth repeating that Fisk and Johnson were cooperative, forthcoming, and remorseful during the stop and subsequent investigation and are valued members of the leadership team in Moline.  Despite their failure to act, their actions during and after the traffic stop are exactly what I would want and expect from a City of Moline employee if faced with these circumstances in the future.  I am confident that both Fisk and Johnson will continue to be effective in their leadership roles in the City.

UPDATE: Two other police department captains were in the vehicle at the time Moline Police Chief John Hitchcock was stopped for OWI.

City Administrator Doug Maxeiner released a statement on the complaint filed with the court clerk in Scott County against Hitchcock:

“The City has received a copy of the complaint filed with the Court Clerk following the traffic stop of Police Chief John Hitchcock at approximately 6:00 PM on September 7th in Scott County, Iowa.  The City is utilizing the services of a local law firm to gather additional facts and conduct an investigation into the incident.  We expect the investigation to be completed expeditiously but do not have a estimated completion date at this time. 

“The City is also aware that two other Police Department employees, Captain Trevor Fisk and Captain Brian Johnson, were in the vehicle at the time Hitchcock was stopped.  Both Captains have been placed on paid administrative leave while a preliminary investigation is completed.  This action was done out of an abundance of caution to make sure there were no improprieties during or after the traffic stop.  Neither Fisk or Johnson were charged by the Iowa State Police in the incident and the City has not received any report or suggestion of improper activity during or after the traffic stop.  We continue to look into the matter but expect both Captains will be returned to their positions in the Police Department once the incident report from the arresting officer is released.

“I will provide an email update on Tuesday, September 11th at 4:30 PM.  No further comment will be provided until that time.” 

EARLIER UPDATE

Moline police chief failed several tests before OWI arrest

Local 4 News has obtained more details in the OWI arrest of Moline Police Chief John Hitchcock.

According to an affidavit, an Iowa State trooper observed a black Chevy Silverado approaching at a high rate of speed on Friday around 5:52 p.m. and clocked it going 90 MPH in a 65 MPH zone.

After pulling over Hitchcock, the trooper said he could smell the odor of an alcoholic beverage coming from inside the car, according to the affidavit.

Hitchcock said he did not realize he was going that fast, but the trooper said Hitchcock had bloodshot and watery eyes and slurred speech.

Hitchcock acknowledged to the trooper he had had a few drinks, according to the affidavit.

The trooper reporter that Hitchcock failed “the horizontal gaze nystagmus test, the walk and turn test and the one leg stand test.”

Hitchcock’s preliminary breath test was .186 percent and he was transported to the Eldridge Police Department for further testing. A second breath test was .201 percent.

Hitchcock was then informed that he was being charged with operating a motor vehicle while intoxicated and his license would be revoked for 180 days.

On Monday neighbors called the Chief’s ability to serve his position into question, saying he’s supposed to lead by example.

Michael Collins, a long-time resident of Moline, said he hopes Chief Hitchcock gets any necessary help he may need. 

“Well I’m concerned about him but you know, the guy could’ve killed somebody you know?” said Collins. “That’s something to look at. I hope he gets help, I hope that he doesn’t remain the police chief. If you’re a police chief you shouldn’t be disregarding the law, right? “

And Jon Jordan, also a neighbor in the area, said the City of Moline will have to take a close look at whether or not the Chief can remain in the top spot going forward.

“Well it’s disappointing,” said Jordan. “I think our leaders should be the ones setting the example. And especially for someone who enforces laws like that, it’s definitely important for them to follow the laws that they enforce. But I do think they need to do an investigation to determine whether he is fit to stay in this position.”

EARLIER REPORT

The Iowa State Patrol confirmed with Local 4 News that Moline Police Chief John Hitchcock was cited with an OWI and also for speeding.

Hitchcock was caught speeding Friday night in Scott County.

He was put on paid administrative leave, last night.

Moline administrator Doug Maxeiner said in a statement late last night, the city is launching an investigation into the incident.
    
Hitchcock became chief in January. He’s been with the department for 25 years.

EARLIER UPDATE

The Iowa State Patrol has confirmed with Local 4 news that Moline Police Chief John Hitchcock was cited with an OWI.

He was also charged with speeding.

We will continue to follow the story as more information comes in.

EARLIER REPORT

Moline’s Police Chief is on leave from the post after being cited Friday night.

Moline City Administrator Doug Maxeiner tells Local Four News he learned Saturday morning Police Chief John Hitchcock was involved in a traffic stop while off duty Friday in a personal car. 

That stop has resulted in Chief Hitchcock facing charges. 

Maxeiner said the city is now launching an investigation into the incident.

Chief Hitchcock has also been placed on paid administrative leave as is practice by the city and waiting for the results of the investigation.

In Chief Hitchcock’s place, Lt. David Gass will serve as the acting chief. 

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