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Rockford Fire and Police Commision votes down complaint against Chief O’Shea

Vote was 3-0.
Published: Jul. 9, 2020 at 11:29 AM CDT
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ROCKFORD, Ill. (WIFR) - The Rockford Board of Fire and Police Commission voted they did not find probable cause of a complaint against Rockford Police Chief Dan O’Shea at City Hall Thursday morning.

A group of Rockford residents had filed a formal complaint against O’Shea for his comments in May on teenage gun violence. The Fire and Police Commission determined there was no sufficient evidence for probable cause to go further in the investigation, by a 3-0 vote.

First, there was approximately 30 minutes of public comment, where speakers were allowed three minutes each to speak to the Rockford Board of Fire and Police Commission. Many supported O’Shea, others spoke against him.

“Until that system is demolished nothing will change,” says Brandon Gordon, who says he just wants the truth.

At the end of the public discussion, O’Shea spoke to the commission directly. He addressed comments he made during a May news conference that sparked the complaint, and stated his support of Rockford youth programs originated since he was named Rockford Chief of Police in 2016.

“The 16, 17-year-olds running around shooting each other, we’re not wasting our time trying to save them. They are lost. We’re trying to focus on 4 or 5-year-olds all the way up to 12 or 13, where we have a chance at saving them, changing their lives and changing the direction they are going in it,” O’Shea had said in May. “Seventeen-year-olds that go around committing murders and shooting at people, yeah, well, sorry. Off to prison you go. I got nothing for you. Your family failed you up until this point and there is nothing that we can do for you.”

Thursday he said he believed his comments were perceived in a way he didn’t intend. “I realize some individuals have taken or perceived a few sentences from one of my press conferences and taken or understood or perceived them not as I intended,” he says. “I do not discriminate and have not discriminated against anyone based on their race, color, ethnicity, age, gender, national origin, religion, economic status, cultural group, sexual orientation or any other identifiable group.”

Aija Penix originally filed the complaint, claiming O’Shea violated the commissions policy against bias policing.

“Who’s willing to hold him accountable for the things that come out of his mouth, obviously no one here in the commission,” says Penix. “And if you won’t be held accountable you should hold yourself accountable. And listing off all the things you have done is a form of escapism to me. I’m sorry goes a long way. Stop insulting my intelligence telling me I misunderstood something you very clearly stated.”

Penix tells 23 News she plans to continue to participate politically and vote to hold the board accountable.

Winnebago County State’s Attorney Marilyn Hite Ross also spoke in support of O’Shea.

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