The candidates running to replace retired Rockford police chief Chet Epperson is down to Rockford Police Department’s Doug Pann and Elgin Police Department’s Daniel O’Shea, both vying for the city’s top cop position. A third finalist, Racine Police Department’s Arthel Howell, withdrew from the race.
Rockford residents and leaders talked to the two remaining candidates during a meet and greet at the Nordlof Center.
“I asked them some difficult questions, questions that… they answered very candidly and honestly, both of them,” said Harlan Johnson, a community therapist in Rockford.
“There’s one school of thought, do we take somebody who’s already got relationships and connections to the community, or do we take somebody with a fresh set of eyes from outside of the community,” said Robert Esmond, president of the West Gateway Coalition.
O’Shea’s outside perspective made him a novelty item Tuesday night. He has nearly 30 years experience in law enforcement, 17 of them in Elgin.
“We have taken our crime to 41-42 year lows with violent crimes,” explained Commander Daniel O’Shea, Elgin Police Department. “It’s a lot of work [and] it takes a lot of time.”
Rockford Police Assistant Deputy Chief Doug Pann believes his inside knowledge of the city and how the department works is an advantage. But he say’s that doesn’t mean he’s a carbon copy of former chief Chet Epperson.
“I have strengths in some areas where he had weaknesses,” said Pann. “Whoever comes into the position, whether it’s me or Danny O’Shea, they’re going to inherit a police department that is well positioned to be successful moving forward.”
But both Pann and O’shea agree that the department can’t move forward without improvements to communication and trust.
“First and foremost on my mind is to really increase communication,” said O’Shea, “to make sure everybody is on the same page whether it be with the officers or with the citizens and the business owners.
“I’m going work to rebuild trust inside the police department and build upon the trust that we have in the community,” Pann said Tuesday night.
The interview process for the two candidates continues Wednesday.