Rockford Aldermen Ask Police Union to Move On

By: Alice Barr
By: Alice Barr

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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  • by Frank Location: Rockford NE on Dec 13, 2007 at 06:04 AM
    I'd like to know how this city council can overlook the criminal charges that were brought against the chief? If Epperson's family, friends of his wife and Deb Weaver etc. were disallowed access to this "Post Your Comments" site I doubt if there would be many comments posted. I might just be the only one posting here.
  • by Helen Location: Rockford on Dec 11, 2007 at 01:21 PM
    There is no logical reason why police officers, unions, detectives, etc should be able to fire their CEO/Chief. These people need to work in the corporate world for a while. If police officers, their families etc were disallowed access to this "Post Your Comments" site I doubt if there would be many comments posted. I might just be the only one posting here.
  • by Anonymouse Location: Rockton on Dec 11, 2007 at 08:32 AM
    I agree with Chris. It seems that the only thing to go away now is the chief. Criminal charges against the top cop? Unheard of. He is supposed to be the defender of the law, the protector of the rights of innocent and guilty alike. He sets the tempo for the rest. Even if things could be worked out, the matter of trust and integrity violated will remain. At this point, the Morrisey administration is trying damage control but the dam has burst. The city council can only throw in so many sandbags, it's a nobel effort but I think it will fail in the end.
  • by Bill Location: Rockford on Dec 11, 2007 at 07:33 AM
    The b oard is just trying to pretend that nothing is wrong. If they put their heads far enough into the sand, they won't see a thing. When the whole department loses confidence in their leader, he must go. When veteran officers leave rather than work with a man they don't trust, the community gains nothing. When a supposed leader won't look you in the eye and answer questions honestly, the city should be getting rid of him so fast his head would spin. By the way, how about a few more annoying pop-up ads on your website? I still have 2 inches of uncluttered screen.
  • by Richard Location: Rockford on Dec 11, 2007 at 06:09 AM
    How many people get to pick their manager/supervisor/boss? I have yet to hear any wrongdoing on Mr. Epperson's part. As along as Mr. Epperson is not doing anything illegal or unethical, he should be allowed to try any management style he wishes. It's the job of the Police and Fire Commission to determine if Mr. Epperson is doing a good job, not the Union, and not the City councilmen. If every manager had to be liked and respected by his subordinates, we wouldn't have any managers. Like the rest of the working world, if you don't like working for someone, you always have the option to find another job.
  • by Robert Location: SW RKFD on Dec 11, 2007 at 05:31 AM
    What apology? Chief Epperson read a written apology that was prepared by someone else. It was written on City of Rockford Letterhead with Julia Scott Valdez' name on it. Epperson couldnt even write his own apology? A sincere apology comes from the heart, not some prepared statement. I fear that Alderwoman Mc Neeley is correct! The council has refused to grasp or acknowledge the real issues and seem to be blinded by the mayor. Why would they support a chief that commits felonies? Epperson should have been placed on administrative leave immediately instead of being left to cause further damage and destruction to a sinking ship! He is a menace to himself, to his family, to the department and the city! What is wrong with this council? And where is the board? When you hear allegations of felony activity you dont hold off on meeting until January! This is absurd!
  • by Chris Location: Rockton on Dec 10, 2007 at 09:58 PM
    The union should not back down just because Epperson apologized. His apology is not sincere, it only has the hopes of keeping his job. He knew months ago there were problems with him management/leadership style when the surveys came back. (that's why they have not and will not be released to the public) nothing will change, and the union would be "foolish" to not continue to move forward with the demand of his resignation. You can't change the stripes on a zebra. There is no trust, no respect for him. These are things which must be earned, not demanded as he has done. It is too late. The only resolve to this mess is his removal.
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