Police Commission Votes to Review Epperson Complaint

- UPDATE --  An empty seat during Monday's hearing has Chet Epperson's name on it. But next month, he'll be in the room to answer questions after the Fire and Police Commission voted 3-0 to hear a complaint against him filed by the Police Union.  The union claims the chief improperly ordered officers to leave the scene of a welfare check call at the home of NAACP President Lloyd Johnston.

"The Chief of Police obstructed the lawful and actions of his own officers. If any other police officer in the city of Rockford had done something like this, they would have been fired on the spot," alleges Dan McGrail, attorney for the police union.

Thomas McGuire, Epperson's attorney shot back that "The Chief of Police did not tell the officers to leave.   That is not an accurate statement."

So who can fire Epperson? Or at least discipline Rockford's top cop? On Monday, that became a question of who hired him in the first place.

"The board of fire and police commissioners went forward and appointed my client as Chief of Police with no authority, legal authority to do so," McGuire alleges.

McGuire cited ordinances created after home rule was disbanded 30 years ago that shifted power from the board to the mayor, a point with which the board clearly disagrees.

"The board stands by it's position that it is the appointing authority of the Chief and that it acted reasonably and lawfully when it appointed the Chief in April of 2006," Board Hearing Officer Ian Linnabary said after the hearing.

McGuire says the effect of going forward leaves the tail wagging the dog.  "This is the effort of the police union to exert its muscle for the purpose of directing a police department. The Chief of Police will run the department, not a union."

The hearing complete with testimony and cross-examination of Epperson and others will be held in late August.

UPDATE (7/21/14): McGuire filed a motion to dismiss the case against his client, Police Chief Chet Epperson.  However, the Board of Fire and Police Commissioners denied the request by a vote of 3-0.  The case will continue Aug. 25th at 9am.

Tune into Eyewitness News More Local at 5 and 6 for more details on Monday's hearing.

ROCKFORD - Rockford’s Police Chief is caught in the crosshairs once again tonight. The board of fire and police commissioners meeting to discuss the next steps in the complaint filed against him.

Police and Fire commissioners filed into a small conference room Tuesday to discuss a large issue, the investigation into Police Chief Chet Epperson. Thomas McGuire, Chief Epperson’s lawyer says that the commission should not be involved in the matter.  “This commission has no authority in regards to the Police Chief.” McGuire has argued this from the beginning of the Epperson controversy, but a judge ruled two weeks ago that the commission does have oversight of the Chief.

At Tuesday’s meeting, the commission discussed the police union’s complaint against Chief Chet Epperson. The union alleges the Chief improperly interfered with officers after they were called to the home of NAACP President Lloyd Johnston.  The officers were there to do a welfare check on Johnston’s son.  Johnston called Epperson on his cell phone, and told us the Chief ordered officers to wait for a supervisor. “I don’t think the Chief did anything wrong, and I honestly believe that if I would have been able to reach the union president, Terry Peterson he would have assisted my in a like manner” said Johnston

Police Union President, Terry Peterson filed the complaint. Claiming Epperson’s interference was irregular and inappropriate. This was the first commission on the complaint, But Epperson was not there. “He is running a police dept. and I did not want to take him away from his normal job of running the police dept. that is what he is paid to do, and that is what he is doing.” Said McGuire

Things got interesting when Epperson’s lawyer stated that this investigation is all due to Terry Petersons agenda to become the next police chief. Peterson laughed saying “Well, every once in a while there has to be some humor in the hearing.” 

The Police Union has issued subpoenas to the city of Rockford, but an agreement on what information is allowed to be public has not yet been reached. “The city has voiced some concerns about privacy and confidentiality issues. We are going to try and work through that.” Said Dan McGrail, attorney representing the Police Union

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