It all started last November, police say, when a suspect in an arson investigation was seen using something to scratch the wall of his cell at the Evanson police station.

A civilian service desk officer assisted by a police officer searched the suspect and found a penny in the suspect’s back pants pocket.

Two weeks later the suspect called the police station to complain that the coin — which he described as an 1877 Indian Head penny in mint condition — hadn’t been returned to him when he was released.

CoinTrackers, a coin collectors website, suggests a mint condition Indian Head penny from that year could be worth as much as $3,200.

The department launched an internal investigation of the suspect’s complaint, and the service desk officer reported that she had placed the “U.S. Lincoln penny” she’d recovered from the suspect in a coffee collection cup on the counter in the service desk kitchen.

A deputy chief who reviewed video of the incident said the video showed the suspect sitting on the floor of his cell and reaching under the toilet to retrieve an object that “made a sound similar to that of a coin” when he tossed it on the cell’s bed.

The video also showed the suspect using the object to scratch something on the wall. And when the service officer took the penny from him, the deputy chief said, the video showed he didn’t claim it belonged to him or that it was rare.

After the departmental investigation, which is to be reviewed Monday by the City Council’s Human Services Committee, the service desk officer was given a written reprimand for failing to inventory the item she recovered from the suspect.

Names of the persons involved were not included in the report to the committee, as is standard practice with police misconduct complaints.

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

Join the Conversation


  1. That was hes property, and
    That was hes property, and yes good job , acording to compliance, a penny is a penny

  2. That officer should be
    That officer should be written up!! But the report and the pen that wrote the report should be incinerated. Law enforcement has a tough job . Prisoner should of received extra time for bringing in contraband. Officer should be put on paid leave till investigation is complete so they can relax and enjoy life for a week

Leave a comment
The goal of our comment policy is to make the comments section a vibrant yet civil space. Treat each other with respect — even the people you disagree with. Whenever possible, provide links to credible documentary evidence to back up your factual claims.

Your email address will not be published.