Discipline and transparency in a police cover up

By Audrey Williams

November 29, 2012 Updated Nov 30, 2012 at 10:49 AM CDT

PEORIA, Ill -- An alleged police cover up has raised questions about transparency in the Peoria Police Department.

Chief Steve Settingsgaard says at times information has to remain confidential until it's known if and when it can be properly released.

January 1, when a new Peoria Police contract goes into effect, Chief Steve Settingsgaard will have a broader authority when one of his officers faces criminal charges.

Chief Settingsgaard said this is not because in direct relation to a recent alleged cover-up involving several of his officers.

"This case is a good example that maybe what happened many years ago in police work doesn't necessarily go the same way anymore," said Chief Settingsgaard.

In July, Officer John Couve was allegedly out drinking then wrecked his undercover vehicle. Sgt. Richard Glover was the investigating supervisor on the scene. At first, it was reported the vehicle was stolen before the crash.

Chief Settingsgaard said, "It was as if they made independent decisions. I don't know that were was any discussion that we need to do this, we need to cover this, we need to go this route."

Both are charged with multiple felony counts. That night, two other officers, Lieutenant Doug Theobald and Vice officer Richard Linthicum, became aware of what was going on.

"The investigation showed that Officer Linthicum encouraged and suggested to Couve on the phone that he tell the truth," said Chief Settingsgaard. "What he was disciplined for was not coming forward immediately with that information. Lt. Theobald did a little bit to try and make this thing happen properly, but didn't do enough."

During the State Police investigation, Chief Settingsgaard said he wasn't at liberty to speak publicly. After the investigation and during Theobald and Linthicum's disciplinary meeting, the officers asked the Chief to give the public more information.

"They wanted the truth to be out and acknowledge that that truth includes both good an bad," said Chief Settingsgaard.

He said during the investigation he was not trying to keep the public from knowing specifics, it just wasn't the right time.

"I do believe in transparency," he said. "Transparency doesn't mean giving away everything and there are things that just have to be confidential, not hidden, not secret, swept under the rug, but confidential."

Peoria City Councilwoman Barbara Van Auken said she has total trust in the Police Chief.

"I thought it was handled exactly right. Soon after it happened, Chief Settingsgaard let the council know and Mr. Urich know that he had brought in the State Police to investigate, as he should have," said Councilwoman Van Auken.

Chief Settingsgaard said if something similar were to happen again, he would handle it the same way.

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