The Rockford Police Department’s “Resident Officer Community Keepers”, or R.O.C.K Officers, have been around since 2017, and they’re already changing the way community policing is done.
Officers Eric Thurmond and Patrice Turner actually live in the neighborhoods they’re tasked with protecting and serving, and both say it allows them to connect with their community better than ever before.
“I’m not afraid to live in the communities here,” said Thurmond. “I’m not afraid for people to know where I live. It just kind of made sense to me. I’m policing here and I might as well live here, because their issues are my issues.”
Thurmond is one of two Rockford officers tasked with being available 24/7 in their own neighborhood. He moved into his Keith Creek neighborhood home two years ago and immediately saw a change.
“There was a gentleman across the street from me that kept coming over and asking me, ‘Are you gonna be living here? Are there gonna be cameras?’ and things like that. I explained the Rock House program to him, and then I came back a week later and he was gone. He and his whole family left. And then, later on, I found out it was a known drug house,” Thurmond said.
Officer Thurmond has recently been the talk of social media, proving he can connect with Rockford’s youth by busting a few moves, most recently by connecting with kids at a block party in the Ellis Heights neighborhood.
“Dancing. Yeah, it might be silly, but that’s a quick way to break that barrier, where they can just see that we’re normal people.” Thurmond said.
“He’s nice,” said Alyia Hayes, who attended the block party. “I like when he comes around. He can dance.”
Officer Patrice Turner is also a R.O.C.K. Officer. She was born and raised in Rockford and says she wanted to stay in her community and build it up from the inside.
“Instead of being at a police station and coming here, I actually live here,” she said. “So, people knock on my door from time to time, people call me. My phone number is posted on my house, so they can call me anytime, day or night. And they do.”
Like Officer Thurmond, Officer Turner has a natural ability to connect with kids.
“Yesterday, I mentioned to two kids that I was gonna be passing out some flyers today for a block party that I’ll be having tomorrow,” she said. “This morning, at 8:02 a.m., ‘bing, bong!’ I had 10 kids on my front lawn, saying, ‘Are you ready? Are you ready?’ And, of course, I had to say, ‘I guess so! I guess so! I guess I am!'”
The block party was held Thursday. The Rockford Police Department is holding more Strong Neighborhood block parties, the next one on July 18th at Summerdale Early Childhood Center at 3320 Glenwood Avenue.