Former Rockford Police chief Jeff Nielsen remembers that life-changing phone call in 1997 like it was yesterday.
"It's a good feeling, you are taking over a big and strong agency. It's a big city, and a big job," Nielsen said.
In the final hours before he was tabbed Rockford's police chief, Nielsen says he was nervous, and laid low. He offers simple advice for the next chief - get to know your officers, and make sure the transition isn't rushed.
"You are making a change, but you've got more than 300 people making a change too, so you have to make sure they understand, and you understand your role," Nielsen said.
Nielsen, however, is disappointed that all but one of the final six chief candidates are from outside Rockford's department. The former chief says this sets a dangerous precedent for the loyal officers who spent decades fighting local crime, and tackling neighborhood issues.
"There is some very impressive individuals, but it's a huge change in tradition. You've got the mindset of the organization - here comes the outsider into our organization," Nielsen said.
Despite his reservations of a non-local police chief, Nielsen believes all six candidates will all do a fine job - if chosen to be Rockford's newest top cop.
"They have a good organization. They don't have corruption issues. We hire, we train well, so whoever the leader is they'll all do well into the future, and make us a better place," Nielsen said.
And now, we await the final word on Friday, to see who the Board of Fire and Police Commissioners will select to serve and protect the Forest City.
Jeff Nielsen served as Rockford police chief from July of 1997 to January of 2003. He was replaced by Steve Pugh, who stepped down late last year, and now lives in sunny Florida.