ROCKFORD, Ill. (WTVO) — The Rockford Board of Fire and Police Commissioners found no probable cause to pursue disciplinary action against Police Chief Dan O’Shea for a citizen complaint of biased policing.
At a hearing on Thursday, the commissioners voted 3-0 to dismiss the complaint.
A group of Rockford residents filed a formal complaint against Rockford Police Chief O’Shea for his comments in May on teenage gun violence.
The complaint makes one allegation against O’Shea, saying his comment violates the department’s policies against biased policing. Specifically, it says O’Shea is biased against 16 and 17-year olds.
O’Shea said, “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.”
“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,” he continued.
Democratic aldermen in Rockford say they want Chief O’Shea held accountable for his comments.
A petition calling for O’Shea’s resignation was posted on Change.org last month.
A local self-described “Black anarchist” group, known as Rockford Youth Activism, included on a list of demands that O’Shea rescind his comments, which have since been widely shared on Twitter.
The group also disputes the Rockford Police Chief Dan O’Shea statement that many of the violent protesters came from out of town, saying in part: “We believe that this statement was made to downplay the justified anger towards police violence that has been growing in the city due to deaths by police, brutality, corruption ,and misconduct.”
O’Shea has since clarified his comments to mean he was specifically speaking about violent offenders in a recent wave of shootings.
The Fire and Police Commission determined there was not enough probable cause to go further in the investigation.
Commissioner Maurice West said, “There is a select amount of individuals that he has said he can’t do anything with, and those were 16-and-17-year-olds that were shooting each other and murdering in the city. That’s not considered a protected class.
“As chief law enforcement officer, his job is to then say, if you are shooting people or each other, or murdering in the city, we have to then commit you over to the Department of Corrections. And, we have reentry programs after their time is served.
“That does not, to me, appear as discriminatory, prejudiced against that age group. It’s against certain ones that I think we are afraid to call ‘criminals’, because they are doing criminal activity, and they are making life miserable for those that are trying to live their life in Rockford,” he said.
Following the meeting, a small group of protesters gathered outside City Hall, but Fire and Police Commission Secretary Ian Linnabary thinks the Board made the right call.
“The commissioners are very good. They don’t pre-judge these matters. They take these disciplinary hearings very seriously. So, I think they reached the correct result after looking at the complaint and the facts, and comparing them to the District’s policy,” he said.
Linnabary said there is still a possibility that the decision could be appealed, but it would have to move on to the court system.
Rockford Mayor Tom McNamara released a statement, saying, “I appreciate the thoughtful time and energy that the Fire and Police Commission dedicated to reviewing the complaint. I absolutely believe that they came to the right conclusion. Dan O’Shea has shown no bias and has done an excellent job as our police chief.”
During the Chief’s statement, he went through a long list of youth programs he started in his time in office, including several basketball programs, neighborhood parties, and the free Youth Police Academy. He also mentioned the Rolling Strong program, in which kids fix bikes and get to keep them.
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