Rockford police officers and the citizens they serve work together to overcome barriers. Both sides embrace differences to achieve a common goal; cleaning up crime.
Wednesday night's obstacle was a language barrier. Rockford cops met with Hispanic community members discussing everything from geographic policing to the use of force by an officer. One after the other, community members speak their minds asking questions to better understand Rockford's Police Department.
"We want to really hear what the residents and citizens have to say about crime how they feel about crime, there may be something we don't know." -says Police Chief Chet Epperson.
Rockford resident Luis Molina says, "I was very interested to hear what they were going to talk about, it's very important what they've told us."
While cops engage in the Hispanic community's concerns, recently use of deadly force Rockford's NAACP Chapter President Lloyd Johnston worried. He and his supporters think the police department and other agencies like the Winnebago Boone County Integrity Task Force are not properly trained to work with minority groups.
"We seriously doubt that police officers come to work with a goal or desire to use deadly force on persons of color, but the harsh reality is the number of officer-related shootings of African-American males compared to racial demographic is of crisis proportions." -says Johnston.
Chief Epperson counters, "Anytime there's a shooting it's very unfortunate, it's unfortunate for the decedent and their family, it's unfortunate for what our officers have to go through, so there are no winners out of an officer-involved shooting."
Epperson says his officers have received cultural competency training for the last year-and-a-half. For chiefs like himself, the YWCA provides seminars to help departments overcome racial bias.
Winnebago Boone County Integrity Task Force members have declined to comment on this issue.
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