It was last October when Chet Epperson announced his retirement as Rockford’s Chief of Police, during an emotional press conference at City Hall.
Fast forward to March of 2016, and the Board of Fire and Police Commissioners still have not picked his permanent replacement.
The board’s secretary, Ian Linnabary, says, “To anyone who is wondering why the process has taken the amount of time that it has, needs to recognize that there are few decisions that are going to be made that are more important to the future of this community (than others).”
The new chief will have a tough job ahead of them, helping to curb crime and drug problems. Last week, a vacant home went up in flames on Avon Street, which is down the street from Robert Esmond’s house. Esmond says the building became empty during a drug raid weeks earlier.
Esmond says, “We have some challenges (drug problems) in our neighborhoods, and having a good working relationship between the neighbors and the police force is crucial to solving some of those problems.”
The commissioners are down to 26 applicants, Linnabary says most of them are from the Midwest, but he would not say how many applicants are current or retired Rockford police officers. The commission hopes to narrow the 26 applicants down to a final four by next week. Residents will then have a chance to speak with the candidates during a community forum, on March 22nd.
Linnabary says, “The decision rests exclusively with the Police and Fire Commission, and they will make that decision based on significant input, I assume, from the community, from residents, from aldermen, and the mayor.”
Esmond says he hopes the commissioners pick a police chief who actively engages with residents of Rockford’s West side. He says there is a current member of the police department that he feels would be a good chief.
He says, “I do like (Lt.) Carla Redd. She’s done a lot of work for us out in the community, and I think she would be a great choice. It’s my understanding that she is one of the applicants.”