Rockford Aldermen Ask Police Union to Move On

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Rockford aldermen announce that they accept Police Chief Chet Epperson's apology for his part in the rift with the union and they want the union to do the same.
The police union's president Aurelio DeLaRosa says the union appreciates Epperson's apology and the aldermen's efforts to step in. But they do not feel Chief Epperson has been open with them and they do not have assurance that things will change at the department so they think the apology is too little too late.
"The city council accpepts Chief Epperson's apology and the commitments expressed therein to continue to articulate the mission and vision of the department but to be more receptive to the input from all concerned," says Alderman Carl Wasco, reading in a resolution at Monday night's city council meeting.
Aldermen say the resolution is about making peace and progress. Not about choosing sides.
"This wasn't a slam against the union, this wasn't a vote of support for the chief. It's just simply saying that we want to move forward with this department, with the chief, with the union in trying to find some common ground with their differences," says Alderman Jeff Holt.
The resolution comes after aldermen met with police union leaders last Wednesday and Thursday to talk through the union's concerns over officer safety and working conditions.
Union leaders walked out of Thursday's meeting early saying they would never negotiate with the chief again, because he did not answer any of their questions, though he did apologize to the union.
"I've pushed people very hard, as hard as I push myself. We've moved the department quickly in the last 20 months. There may have been times my pushing has been overzealous and so I apologize for that. But I'm awfully proud of the work of the Rockford Police Department," says Chief Epperson.
Epperson says he plans to rely more heavily on his command staff moving forward and open the lines of communication. He says he cannot make progress on his own.
Alderman Linda McNeely was the only council member to vote against the resolution, because she does not think it will solve the police feud and may even add fuel to the fire.
"I think we may be separating the chief and the union even more so. So maybe the best thing is to have some mediator come in. I don't have the answer. But I don't think that we're going to be able to do it," says Alderman McNeely.
Aldermen are also asking the union to come back to the negotiating table for another meeting with the city.
Chief Epperson declined to comment about the complaints union leaders filed against him last week with the Rockford Police and Fire Commission. The union accuses Epperson of perjury, eavesdropping and disrespecting officers, among other charges.
Finally, the Illinois Labor Relations Board said Monday it will investigate a complaint former Police Union President Doug Block filed against Rockford Legal Director Patrick Hayes.
In the complaint, Block accuses Hayes of threatening union leaders during a disagreement involving AFSCME contract negotiations.
Hayes said Monday night he will be filing a counter-charge. He declined to comment further.

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