ROCKFORD, Ill. (WTVO) — Nine people have been murdered in the first seven months of 2021 as the City of Rockford continues to deal with a rash of shootings.
The city is currently on par with homicide rates from 2019 and 2020, which saw 10 and 11 homicide by this time, respectively.
That gun violence will likely be a priority for whoever becomes the city’s next police chief.
Rockford’s Fire and Police Commissioners are looking not only for the replacement for retired Chief Dan O’Shea, but also a Fire Chief as well.
Rockford resident Bob Babcock says he’s worried about the recent crime in Rockford.
“The only direct connection between law enforcement and crime is that they’re there to clean up the mess when our society has failed,” he said.
As the search continues for the new chief, Babcock says he doesn’t foresee a new chief being able to do much to stop the recent shootings, robberies and murders.
“I’m not so sure a police chief is going to be able to solve a crime problem per se,” Babcock said. “I think the crime problem is a problem of the trauma and stress in our society and the reality that we live in a relatively low income area.”
Fire and Police Commissioner Sam Schmitz says they are looking at candidates who will understand the city’s problems.
“[We’re looking for someone who] has experienced some of the turmoil our world – currently we exist in – so certainly that’s going to be a key criteria. and not only experienced it, but how has it been handled in the current municipality that they’re working in,” Schmitz said.
“We would hope that each candidate who has applied has done their research on Rockford and wants to be involved, to help make our community all that it can be,” he added.
Schmitz says transparency and forging relationships between police and the public are extremely important.
“I think we’re almost like the Phoenix rising from the ashes, so I’m very hopeful,” Babcock said. “I see a lot of people who care here and that’s wonderful, and that’s why I love Rockford.”
An outside firm is currently sorting through candidates. IOS is asking community members to submit questions to the email addresses listed below by midnight on July 22, 2021. IOS will compile these questions and present them to the candidates during the live, virtual forums.