Former lawman pleads guilty
Published 3:41 pm Wednesday, December 5, 2007
Steven Hilsinger admits stealing from Hispanics
By CLAUD HODGES
Steven Ray Hilsinger, 33, once a police officer with the Washington Police Department, has pleaded guilty to four misdemeanor charges of stealing money from Hispanic motorists he stopped.
His sentencing is scheduled for March 3.
The patrol officer, who had served for about a year with the police department, was arrested by the Beaufort County Sheriff’s Office, with help from the State Bureau of Investigation.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office says Hilsinger stopped Hispanic motorists during late 2005, took their wallets and took money out of them before he returned their wallets. The Attorney’s Office says Hilsinger used this procedure to steal $60 in the first incident and $40 in the second.
Hilsinger pleaded guilty to four charges of willfully depriving individuals of their right against unreasonable searches and seizures.
Before Hilsinger worked at the Washington Police Department, he worked at the Beaufort County Sheriff’s Office.
This assumption by Hilsinger did not work because he was discovered indirectly by Hispanic residents.
Their talk amongst themselves “was picked up” by the Sheriff’s Office, said Lt. Russell Davenport, an investigator. “Then, we (the Sheriff’s Office investigators) went to work.”
Hilsinger must have thought Hispanics were wary of law enforcement targeting them because there might be a chance that they would be suspected of being in the United States illegally, Jordan said.
It’s hard to imagine the “type of fear” this behavior must have caused “this part of our population” to be subjected to, Jordan said.
Hilsinger became employed by the Washington Police Department after “he was terminated” from the Sheriffs Office, Jordan said.
According to Davenport, the undercover operation to watch Hilsinger lasted “about six months.”
The investigation began with the Sheriff’s Office looking at records from vehicle stops, which are all recorded. He said there were many records to search and this made the investigation lengthy.
It was difficult to follow him (Hilsinger) and actually see him stop a motorist, Davenport said. Then, it would be difficult to see if the motorist was Hispanic and then determine whether the suspect (Hilsinger) stole money from the motorist, Davenport said.
Finally, after using an undercover agent, Davenport said Hilsinger stole money from this agent.
It was then that Davenport said his crew knew they “had him (Hilsinger).”
Washington Police Department’s Police Chief Mick Reed, who has been at the helm of the department for just a few weeks, said that under his command, the Washington Police Department will “learn from the past” and will “look forward to the future.”
Since Reed became a member of the Washington Police Department, he said the department has “the hardest, and most confident, working people that he has ever worked with.”
Reed’s utmost philosophy, he said, is to maintain a force that is going “to be community-based,” and not one that is “going to dwell in the past.”
Instead of being “reactive to calls in all cases,” he said the police department “will be as proactive” as it can be to work to reduce calls.
He said Washington’s police officers now are going “to interact with the citizens” as much as possible.
It will be a part of their jobs to maintain order in Washington and to have “the strength to maintain” its operations to work with “all the people all of the time.”