Motion to Dismiss Chief Epperson Complaint Denied

ROCKFORD (WIFR) -- The case against Rockford Police Chief Chet Epperson is moving forward, he's expected to testify next month in an incident where union leaders say he interfered with officers during a welfare check.

Today the Board of Fire and Police Commissioners unanimously denied Chief Epperson's request to dismiss the police union's complaint. Epperson's attorney Thomas McGuire says the board doesn't have the authority to hear this case. He says only the mayor does since the mayor is in charge of appointing the police chief.

"The Board of Fire and Police Commissioners went forward and appointed my client as chief of police with no legal authority to do so," says McGuire.

"The board stands by its decision that it is the appointing authority of the chief and that it acted reasonably and lawfully when it appointed the chief in April 2006," says Ian Linnabary, hearing officer and secretary of Board of Fire and Police Commissioners.

Attorneys for the union agree.

"The Illinois statute requires that the fire and police commission in this city appoint the chief of police, that's exactly what occurred. We have been astounded by the positions taken by the chief of police in this case," says Dan Cain, attorney for the police union.

This all stems from a welfare check at Rockford NAACP President Lloyd Johnston's home.

"On speaker phone the chief of police told (Johnston) without even checking with his officers, he told this person basically 'don't let them in, tell them to go away,'" said Cain.

However McGuire argues, "What the chief of police did, was say to the watch commander, 'get over to the scene and find out what's going on.' The chief of police did not in any way order the officers to just back away."

Those are the type of arguments the board will hear at a probable cause hearing on August 25th. Chief Epperson and Lloyd Johnston are expected to testify at that hearing. The board will then decide if there's enough evidence to move to a full hearing.

A circuit court judge has already denied Epperson's request to prevent the board of commissioners from hearing the case. However McGuire has filed a motion to reconsider. The court will hear that argument Wednesday.

Today the board itself denied the motion to dismiss the case.


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