Related topics

Small-Town Scandal: Police Officer Accused of Taping Phone Conversations

February 26, 1996

SAYBROOK, Ill. (AP) _ It all started when a 10-year-old boy accidentally backed a pickup truck into Lorraine Kingsley’s house.

The real trouble started, however, when Mrs. Kingsley began making calls on her cordless telephone about getting an insurance payment for the damage.

The town’s lone police officer taped those calls _ leading to her suspension and separate investigations into illegal wiretapping by the state police and the FBI.

The scandal has this town of 756 people worried about their privacy.

``People naturally are somewhat paranoid. They’re wondering if someone is listening in on their phone conversations,″ said Rusty Robbins Sr., a telephone company employee.

After the mishap with a neighbor’s son in December, Mrs. Kingsley got upset at inconsistent statements from police officer Madeline Nickum about insurance coverage.

Mrs. Kingsley complained to the town’s police commission. Then, Nickum and a McLean County sheriff’s deputy called her into Nickum’s office.

``She sat down in front of me and said they had a cordless phone conversation taped between my neighbor and me,″ Mrs. Kingsley says. ``She said it had evidence of insurance fraud, that she had given it to the state’s attorney’s office.

``She told me I should listen to the tape and I said, `No, I haven’t done anything wrong,‴ Mrs. Kingsley said.

State prosecutors say they never received the tape, and a complaint of insurance fraud against Mrs. Kingsley was never lodged.

About one-fifth of the town’s residents signed a petition asking village officials to discipline Nickum, which they did, suspending her on Feb. 13 for 30 days.

The State Police and the FBI are each investigating whether Nickum broke federal wiretapping laws by recording conversations made on cordless telephones. A 1994 federal law bans intercepting such phone calls without a warrant.

Mrs. Kingsley said FBI agents told her Nickum may have intercepted her phone conversations using a police scanner or police radio.

Nickum, 39, has an unlisted home phone number and could not be reached for comment.

Her supporters say Nickum has done a good job policing Saybrook, adding she heroically came back to work after suffering a near-fatal beating from a drunken driving suspect in 1994.

During Nickum’s suspension, police calls are being handled by the sheriff’s office. Several Saybrook residents say they think the town should do that permanently.

Update hourly