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Why no police report?

American Government Special Collections Reference Desk

McHenry County, Illinois

Why no police report?

Gus Philpott
Woodstock Advocate
August 2, 2012


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.



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