Residents start petition in support of Rockford Police Chief Dan O’Shea

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ROCKFORD, Ill. (WTVO) — UPDATE: The Rockford Board of Fire and Police Commissioners announced Monday that the hearing of a complaint against Rockford Police Chief Chief Dan O’Shea has been moved from Tuesday to Thursday, July 9th at 10 a.m. at City Hall.

ORIGINAL STORY: A Rockford resident has started a petition on Change.org to throw support behind Police Chief Dan O’Shea the day before a formal complaint against him will be heard by the Board of Fire and Police Commissioners.

The petition, started by Travis Stockwell, has collected 1,655 signatures so far.

“It is an unfortunate time that we are in, that we must come together to protect those that have come together to protect us,” the petition reads. “Recently Dan O’Shea has been brought to public attention for a 3 second sound bite from a month or so ago. We are all residents of Rockford and understand the grave situation we face regarding violent crime. And it is unfortunate that we will not save everyone. It is unfortunate that we have to focus on saving younger teenagers from violence on the streets of Rockford, but we all watch the news and understand these unfortunate facts.”

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 group delivered the paperwork to the Fire and Police Commission at the end of last week.

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 first step for the Fire and Police Commission is to go over the complaint to determine if there is enough probable cause to go further in the investigation.

“If there’s no probable cause, and when they do that the complaint would be effectively dismissed and it would stop there. There would be no further action on the complaint. Or, they could determine, yes, there is probable cause, then the complaint will go to full evidentiary hearing at which they would determine if disciple is warranted.,” said Ian Linnabary, the secretary for the Fire and Police Commission.

Last week, Rockford Mayor Tom McNamara released a statement in support of O’Shea, saying, “I stand behind Chief O’Shea 100 percent. In his four years as chief, he has immersed himself and the entire police force into our community. Under his leadership, the police department has developed programs for both young and old that have built relationships and bridged gaps between officers and the community that have existed for decades. While we still have improvements to make, our police department has been successful in addressing and lowering our violent crime rate throughout his tenure. Chief O’Shea is a tremendous asset to our police department and our community. He has my full support.”

The Board of Fire and Police Commissioners will hear the complaint Tuesday at 10 a.m. at Rockford’s City Hall.

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