Right now there are strong opinions both for and against Rockford Chief Chet Epperson. Last Friday, police union members voted "No Confidence" in their chief by 276 votes to 6. But many community members as well as city leaders still support Epperson.
For his part, Epperson says he's staying focused on crime fighting instead of worrying about things like posts on the new police web blogging site, some of which criticize him pretty harshly. Despite such displays of distrust against him, the chief believes the department can come together again.
A Rockford officer speaking on condition of anonymity told me many police are not comfortable speaking about concerns directly to their Chief. Epperson says he welcomes constructive dissent.
Some officers also questions the way crimes are being recorded, saying they may be being skewed to present lower crime statistics. Epperson says the police union's president Aurelio DeLaRosa has raised that concern and Epperson takes the claim very seriously.
"If there's any knowledge of any wrongdoing with any number manipulation, he has three options that he can do. He can file an internal investigation, I would be more than willing to help him with that investigation, he can go to the attorney general's office, or he can file a complaint with the fire and police commission," says Epperson.
Union leaders say their concerns center around officer safety, not resisting change. The officer I've been speaking with says everyone is in favor of new programs like Weed and Seed, but they don't think they have enough officers to implement those programs safely. Chief Epperson says the number of officers on our force is on par with state averages.
In a statement Thursday, the police union says it's just as committed as ever to fighting crime.
Negotiations to hash out concerns between the chief and union stalled Wednesday. The union president called a scheduled meeting off saying Epperson was engaging in back door negotiations. Epperson would not comment on that, but says he's ready to restart talks whenever the union is.