It's been a month of milestones for Chet Epperson. Two and a half weeks ago he and his wife Rita welcomed a baby girl to the world, and Monday he was appointed Rockford's chief of police.
"Just excited, ready to get going and make this place a lot better both internally and externally in the city," says Epperson.
With 23 years with the Rockford PD under his belt, Epperson says he's ready to hit the ground running. Interim Police Chief Dominic Iasparro says colleagues are happy the appointment came from within the department.
"Everybody wanted that and Chet will be very well-received. The department will move forward quickly. There's not someone who has to learn about the community and the department," says Iasparro.
“He knows the community, he's committed to improving some of the technology and processes of engaging community policing, things I've talked about," says Rockford Mayor Larry Morrissey.
During the news conference Epperson talked about plans he has for the future, professionalizing the department through accreditation and a new record keeping system, and implementing the six pillars of organizational change: partnering, prevention, problem solving, personnel, progress and porches.
"Everyone should be able to go on their porch, drink a glass of lemonade and feel safe, and we'll do that through accountability," says Epperson.
Although the road to this appointment had its share of potholes, including the offer and subsequent withdrawal of that offer to David Purdy, the board of fire and police commissioners say the best man for the job is now in charge and ready to move the department forward.
The board of fire and police commissioners, along with Mayor Larry Morrissey, admitted that the selection process took some turns no one anticipated, but they say they're proud that in the end, the best and brightest in a nationwide search came out of the Rockford Police Department.
Leaders admit some mistakes were made along the way such as announcing David Purdy's name before a background check was completed, but board member Jim Powers says Epperson should not have to live under the perception of second place in anyone's eyes.
Board member Lorayne Logan says a selection process takes time, and although they encountered some hurdles she says the process worked.
"There's been what I would characterize as sideshows going on. Our feeling was that we were selected to support the community and select a new chief, and we're not going to get involved in sideshows, we're going to focus on that, and that's what brought us here today," says Powers.
"I think if we look at it realistically, the process worked. It produced a candidate we're all excited about and it weeded out a candidate that we didn't want to move forward with," say Logan.
Mayor Morrissey says Epperson is committed to community policing. Epperson is also a student of the broken windows theory, one Mayor Morrissey spoke often about during his campaign. The theory maintains that attention must be paid to small things before they become out of control.