Rockford Police Chief Chet Epperson accused officers Jason Bailey and Kevin Nordberg last month of posting disparaging comments about the police department on the Register Star's website while on duty. In a hearing Monday night, further charges came out accusing Bailey of using department computers to access pornographic or sexual material.
"The city's had at least 45 days to prepare this case. They've had their computer people on it, they've had their investigator full time for 45 days. Now they're going to dump their findings onto us. We have to see if it's legitimate," says the police officers' attorney Tim O'Neil.
A status hearing is set for October 1st. The acts could cause the officers to resign. Behind the controversy is a sense of discontent from many Rockford police toward their administration. The police union revoked Epperson and Deputy Chief Michael Booker's union membership Friday. They were both partial members due to their high rank and will now be banned from social activities. Also Monday night, union members discussed taking a no confidence vote in Chief Epperson. They plan to do that Friday and will explain their reasoning in depth afterwards.
"It's an issue of fairness, an issue that involves our memberships' welfare and safety and so we're just going to look to protect our rights," says Rockford Police Union President Aurelio DeLaRosa.
"That's not going to sidetrack what we're going to do. Our mission is to reduce crime, increase the solve rate and restore quality of life in rockford and we are seeing that," says Epperson.
The chief received a strong show of support at city council Monday night, from the mayor, aldermen and community members, who say they feel safer in Rockford with Epperson in charge.
The department's four remaining deputy chiefs also showed their support Monday by resigning from the police union. The union president says he regrets their choice but it doesn't change the union's plans. Epperson believes the problems stem from some officers not accepting changes in the department, as he strives for a more proactive crime- fighting approach.
Chief Epperson has also cut back on overtime and sick days in his year-plus on the job. Adding more pressure, police are now in their second year of working without a new contract. Union leaders say that is not behind the no-confidence vote.