ROCKFORD (WIFR) -- The Rockford Police Union will be releasing a new radio ad tomorrow that details the Department's difficulty hiring new officers. It says of the more than 600 people who applied in the last year, only 49 remain candidates. It goes on to say "is the administration making it too difficult to hire otherwise qualified candidates?"
Police Union President Terry Peterson says the ads are necessary to provide more transparency. The Department has told us in the past that some candidates fail the written exam, even drug test and often forget to show up. Peterson says there's more to it than that.
"Somebody doesn't answer a questionnaire properly or pass a polygraph properly then they automatically discard them and we think that process in itself is probably the one aspect that they added that is creating the circumstances we're creating today that we just don't have enough people on the list."
Another ad airing on TV argues the city doesn't have enough money for geo-policing and that cases are being outsourced. Peterson says sex crime cases are being handled by Illinois State Police.
Here is the complete statement from the City of Rockford....
ROCKFORD – February 26, 2013- The Executive Board of the Police Union has been running ads incorrectly stating that the City cannot afford to do geo policing and they have confused the issue of geographic deployment with the issue of our facility needs.
“The Union leadership is wrong. The City can and must move to Geographic Policing to improve public safety for our citizens,” stated Rockford Mayor Larry Morrissey.
“Let me reaffirm that the City of Rockford has the financial ability to operate our department under a geographic policing approach,” the Mayor added. “Chief Epperson has consistently responded positively when confronted with that issue. To meet our staffing goals, we are actively working to hire up to 20 new officers this year to meet our budgeted level of 285 sworn officers,” he added.
“Geographic Policing will greatly enhance our current policing efforts and move our policing efforts and move our police resources and residents in a better position to address neighborhood issues,” Chief Epperson stated. “Our residents have been supportive of Geographic policing and welcome efforts to decrease our overall crime rate.”
Mayor Morrissey also clarified the issues the PB & PA states as the basis for their ad:
“First, under my Administration's plan, the building cost of renovating three smaller buildings will be less than or equivalent to the cost of a new building and will give us the approach most supportive of our geo policing strategy. As I have indicated, we will be bringing detailed costs shortly on our proposal for our Pilot Police District. This approach will bring us closer to our citizens and help us to be better partners with our citizens. Moreover, we simply cannot stay in the dilapidated and outdated old Public Safety Building. If we attempted to do so, our costs would skyrocket since the County will soon be out of the building entirely leaving only the City to carry the building costs of over $1.5 million per year. Second, our ability to operate through geo policing and our ability to add more officers could be quickly aided if the Police Union would stop blocking and start helping. Right now, we could fill our staffing needs more quickly if the union would agree to allow the Police Department to bring in lateral hires at rank instead of forcing new hires with experience to start out at the lowest levels of seniority. Our staffing, budget, and operations would also be aided if the Union would agree to a 12-hour shift, which is an approach that was endorsed by the PPD team, which itself was made up of mostly union members.”
Added Chief Epperson, “The 12-hour shift will enable our officers to work directly with one supervisor who can align issues and concerns that are specific to the area. With our present model, officers may have a different supervisor every day they work which is detrimental in providing the needed support and coaching for our officers.”
Mayor Morrissey further pointed out: “The Police Union has also rejected my administration’s efforts to reform State law to eliminate minimum manning requirements and get back the ability to run the organization as the Council deems appropriate. There are no “magic beans” or “fairy dust.” The only place right now to find money to finance additional officers beyond our budgeted number of 285 would be to eliminate the minimum manning requirements that were forced into our Fire Contract by an out-of-town arbitrator. Rather than fighting us, why doesn’t the Police Union leadership support this effort? The union has refused to support these three initiatives which would help us immediately to meet our staffing goals.
Finally, contrary to the Union’s suggestion that we can’t afford geo policing, I strongly believe that we can’t afford not to do geo policing. Our failed results of the past demonstrate the cost of defending the status quo. Our citizens want geo policing
and our leadership team wants geo policing. Why does the leadership of the Union persist in blocking this important effort?
Rather than spending the Union members’ dues on ads, my request to the Police Union would be to please support our efforts. I’ll also request again that the Police Union drop its request for “hazardous duty pay” for working the west side. I’m not aware of any other department in the country that gets such a thing. All this does is build resentment and reaffirm old stereotypes that have divided our community. Our citizens have rejected that approach and so should our Police Union.”