More controversy among Rockford police. Union leaders say shortstaffing in the sex crimes unit is leaving sex offenders unpunished and the union's two head men could be in trouble with the chief.
In an e-mail sent to Chief Chet Epperson and media outlets Tuesday night, union president Aurelio DeLaRosa says detectives in the sex crimes unit are overwhelmed with cases due to short staffing. DeLaRosa says he knows of one detective who is forty reports behind and that Rockford's Carrie Lynn Center for child victims of sexual abuse is backed up until June waiting for detectives to handle their cases. Carrie Lynn's director declined to comment.
Epperson says he cannot speak to another entity's operations, but he believes the sex crimes unit is operating efficiently and has enough officers.
"Instead of adding more officers right now or adding more detectives, we're looking to see what are we doing? What measurements and things are we doing inside the organization?" says Chief Epperson.
Union leaders call this another example of short-staffing in the entire department. DeLaRosa and vice president Bruce Brannum could now be in hot water for distributing a document to Rockford aldermen regarding manpower.
Union leaders say the study by Northwestern University shows due to low staffing, Rockford officers do not have enough time to engage in community policing. But Chief Epperson says the report is an internal document that is still in draft format.
"The study was released prior to my review of it with the person who put it together," says Epperson.
DeLaRosa counters, "Three supervisors were communicated with and all three advised us that that was not confidential information. It had a start date and an end date and it had been finished."
Also in the e-mail, DeLaRosa says Epperson's priorities are wrong because he is considering adding more officers to the traffic division instead of the sex crimes unit.
Finally, DeLaRosa says officers assigned to check for speeders Tuesday were told not to respond to an armed robbery in their area. Epperson denies that, adding any officer who did not respond to a call for help would be derelict of duty and subject to punishment.
Epperson is holding focus groups with officers to talk through their concerns. He says he wants the union to restart negotiations with him. Union leaders canceled a meeting set for Wednesday because of the internal document debate.