It's no secret that Rockford Mayor Larry Morrissey supports a geo-policing plan for Rockford's finest, he'd like to have it in motion by the end of the year. But, before some city alderman can support the new policing strategy, or any new buildings purchased, city leaders first need to be sure of how the program will get off the ground.
"I don't think the alderman have a problem with it, but is it a permanent thing or is it a two-year pilot? Have we shifted from that? So, we just need communications and questions and having a dialogue, and coming to a final conclusion." -says 5th Ward Alderman and Finance & Personnel Committee Chairman Carl Wasco.
Supporters hope to move Rockford P.D. out of the public safety building, and have buildings for each of the three police districts, so officers can be closer to the crime in their beats. Police Chief Chet Epperson used Saturday's budget meeting to discuss benefits of this decentralized model, and inefficiencies of the department's current system. One inefficiency is officers' commutes out to their beats from the PSB. For some, it's 20 to 25 minutes.
But some city council members are expressing concerns with the decentralized plan, and they're not alone. Police union leader Terry Peterson claims city administrators are over-estimating the cost of fixing up the PSB, and watering down the price of new district buildings.
"If you look at what they're giving you for these individual buildings, they're not giving you the same detailed cost analysis for each one of those buildings. The cost of those buildings ultimately, over a 20 year period, is going to be much greater than if they renovated the public safety building, or built a new facility." -says Peterson, Rockford Police Benevolent & Protective Association President.
He's willing to hear city leaders out on police staff substations, but he comes back to his main argument, there aren't enough officers in Rockford.
"We are so staff-depleted, I don't even think we'd be able to effectively do a substation." -adds Peterson.
However, hiring more doesn't seem like an option to those in charge.
"We don't have the means to add a significant amount of patrol officers, we wish we would, so that's why we have to look inward and say 'How can we allocate our resources more efficiently?'" -says Rockford city administrator Jim Ryan.
City leaders will take this upcoming weekend off. The next budget meeting is scheduled for Saturday, October 6th. According to Alderman Wasco, sometime, in the next two weeks, council members could go into closed session, to discuss real estate acquisitions for potential police district buildings.
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