JS Archive

Apr 2008: He was right, only to be wronged

Mike Nichols Mike Nichols

Dean Babcock spent almost 30 years as a cop in Delavan, so he’s seen the aftermath of drunken-driving accidents. Knows, too, how much trouble underage kids can get into and how much pain they can cause after getting their hands on a bottle of rum or tequila.

Plus, he’s a dad.

He was also a so-called protection specialist (a fancy name for a security guard, he says) at the Target store in Lake Geneva until getting fired for doing what any concerned adult would do.

Stopping, he says, a 16-year-old girl from taking a bottle of booze.

“They fired me for stopping a 16-year-old girl from stealing alcohol,” he said Sunday.

He doesn’t care all that much about the job. At 54 years old, he has a decent pension and was making only $8.50 an hour.

He just can’t believe what happened.

In early March, he says, he noticed a bottle of Captain Morgan rum was missing and, after checking a surveillance video, suspected a young girl of taking it.

On March 7, he says, she showed up again and took a $45 bottle of Patrón tequila.

“She’s a 100-pound girl,” Dean said. “She does three or four shots of that and that will do her in.”

So he did the only thing he could do. He intervened. Showed her a picture he had of her taking the Captain Morgan, got her to take the tequila out of her bag and then called her dad.

He could have simply called the police. But by the time they got there, she could have been long gone. Plus, he says, he was trying to handle it “low-key” because he knew that, technically, he’d violated a Target policy.

Only certain Target personnel, he says, are supposed to stop shoplifters. Never mind that, he says, none of them were there that day.

Dean, it seems, was not supposed to inconvenience the young thief. He wasn’t supposed to do the right thing. Lower-ranking Target employees are apparently not entrusted with doing the right thing. Not that he wasn’t allowed to ask a question.

“Can I help you find something?” he said he was supposed to ask.

“We cannot,” he said, “accuse a guest of stealing.”

Even a 16-year-old guest with a big bottle of tequila.

Even if the father of the girl, he says, appreciated what he did. And even if everyone who fears sharing the road with a high-schooler drunk on tequila would like to mail Dean Babcock a giant thank-you note right now.

He didn’t get a thank-you note. Instead, he got called into an office by a Target manager who heard what happened.

“You were not supposed to make the stop,” he said he was told.

“I am not going to let a 16-year-old girl walk out of here with alcohol,” he said he responded.

Most stores would give a man a raise about then. Four days later, he got a pink slip.

“I was fired,” he said, “for violating the policy” regarding when guests can be stopped.

Kristin Grieser, an assistant store manager for Target in Lake Geneva, confirmed that Dean was terminated and said she could not really provide details about what happened.

“We take shoplifting very seriously,” she said, “but we are also very cautious in making apprehensions.”

You can guess what that means.

That little girl, Dean said, “could have taken a shopping cart full and nobody would have stopped her.”

Would have just wished her a nice day, I guess. And, of course, asked her if she needed help finding anything else.