ROCKFORD, Ill. (WIFR) – One of the Stateline’s newest crime fighting combinations appears to be a match made in heaven. Winnebago County Sheriff Gary Caruana and Rockford Police Chief Dan O’Shea share many of the same philosophies and crime fighting goals. They also often share a lunch table.
It’s a working relationship between the leaders of the area’s two largest law enforcement entities that is better than perhaps at any time before.
When he’s not patrolling the streets, 27-year police veteran Aurelio Delarosa teaches wrestling, kickboxing, and self-defense.
These days, Delarosa is quick to defend his new police chief.
“I knew a lot of the guys he worked with in Elgin. They were sad to see him go. We’re lucky,” says Delarosa.
That was not always the case. Delarosa was one of the leaders of the 276-6 movement against Former Chief Chet Epperson.
Delarosa says he doesn’t have much to say about the past, but he’s definitely excited about the future with Chief O’Shea.
“Now, things are great. He really has Rockford’s best interest, making positive change so Rockford can become a greater community.”
As union president, Delarosa sat down with O’Shea during his first week as Chief.
“We were able to resolve outstanding grievances that we had in 2015 in 45 minutes. That’s unheard of. He really is a problem solver,” continued Delarosa.
The high praise from Delarosa extends beyond the meeting room
“The chief has surprised our officers going on foot chase.
"What does that mean to them?"
“That's a lot of credibility. He walks it like he talks it,” says Delarosa.
"I would never ask any of my officers or civilians to do anything that I wouldn't do myself. My job is to make sure they have training and tools necessary to succeed,” says Chief O’Shea.
That's very similar to the leadership philosophy of O'Shea's Stateline partner in crime fighting, Winnebago County Sheriff Gary Caruana.
"You have to earn their respect. You're there. You're showing up. hands on,” says Caruana.
It's not just philosophies the two new Stateline police leaders share, but they often share a table for lunch.
"Personally we get along fantastic. You wouldn't think we've know each other a month. We ride each other pretty well, almost like brothers,” says Sheriff Caruana.
"I think I've seen you two together more often in 6 months than I did the whole time I've been here. How important is that?"
"I think it's important. Saturation patrol, working hand in hand, it's refreshing,” says Caruana.
"This is the biggest change. With crime in other jurisdictions, the standing order was to stand down."
Delarosa says a great example of that collaboration was the CherryVale Mall shooting.
“Our officers respond to the mall. We have some of greatest officers in nation here,” says Delarosa.
Caruana and O’Shea seem to be lockstep when it comes to the greatest priority – public safety.
“Getting gangs off the streets, violent crimes and heavy drugs, hard core drugs, heroin problem,” says Sheriff Caruana.
“Violent crime is my number one concern, joined a new task force with FBI violent crime. Still doing street level enforcement but also working with federal agencies for a more global perspective,” says Chief O’Shea.
Both have also made controversial decisions on how to combat the violent crime. For Caruana, it’s the return of police chases.
“It’s a necessary evil. I don’t like it one bit, but it’s a necessary tool,” says Caruana.
For O’Shea, the encryption of the scanners was unpopular with the media and the public, but was a popular decision with his officers.
"I made it clear, encryption is for officer safety, to solve crimes, and keep personal information of victims quiet."
So when will the major changes lead to positive results? O’Shea says at least a year or two.
"Two years from now ask me and I will say yeah, it's paying off. I understand where we need to go, where we want to go and if it fails. I'm at fault. I don't think it will,” says Chief O’Shea.
O’Shea says he plans to retire in five years, while Caruana plans to run for re-election when his current term expires in two years.