It’s a one of a kind case. The first time a South Bend police officer faces suspension for releasing information to the press.
The information in question involves claims that Corporal Jack Stilp was threatened and told to keep quiet about the South Bend police tapes and the firing of former chief Darryl Boykins.
The threats were allegedly made by the Commander of St. Joseph County’s Metro Homicide Unit, Tim Corbett, who was under oath and on the witness stand today at Stilp’s hearing before the South Bend Board of Safety.
“At some point in the conversation did you tell him (Stilp) he didn’t know who he was messing with,” asked Stilp’s attorney, Thomas Dixon. “No, I said I’m not going to be messed with, I’m not going to put up with this and I used some colorful verbiage….” replied Corbett.
But Corbett only had half a chance to set the record straight about what he did and didn’t say to Stilp and what he meant by what he said. There were eight objections during Corbett’s 20 minutes of testimony, enough to cause attorney Thomas Dixon to lose his cool. “Come on, how can you sustain that (objection), this is the single most important issue in our community right now and we’re not letting any information come out because of a miniscule characterization of what the issues are in this case.”
Corbett is at the center of the South Bend police tapes controversy. He has his own lawsuit pending against the city and is apparently one of those who were recorded.
Despite the tight legal leash on what Corbett could and couldn’t say, he did manage to explain the reason why he placed a phone call to Stilp in the first place. “What I called Jack for was to let him know that I saw in the paper that they had filed bankruptcy to the tune of about $450,000, $460,000, whatever is was, I was continuing to do work to help he and his wife Deb recover any finances they were out because of these two people who took advantage of t hem as well as two other officers.”
Stilp faces a ten day suspension for wrongfully releasing sensitive information to the press. Stilp claimed that department policy on the subject is not only ambiguous, so was the advice he received from a police supervisor right before he talked to a reporter. “Well, he said I can’t tell you what to say and what not to say, you can simply tell them no comment, but if you decide to talk to them, do not bring up anything that even remotely has anything to do with the ongoing investigation with the mayor's office, or chief Boykins or Karen DePaepe.
The South Bend Board of Safety will digest some six hours of testimony offered today and rule at a later date.