Mayor speaks out after commission clears Rockford Police Chief
ROCKFORD (WREX) -
Rockford Mayor Larry Morrissey is speaking out following the exoneration of his police chief last night.
A commission said Chief Chet Epperson did not violate the rules of his department.
"I'm pleased with the outcome of course for the chief," Morrissey says.
According to Morrissey he didn't think the outcome of the chief's hearing would end any other way.
"I didn't have a whole lot of doubt about the outcome because the chief didn't do anything wrong," Morrissey says.
A unanimous vote by the Fire and Police Commissioners ended a complaint hearing against Chief Epperson Thursday night.
"The commission had concerns about the conduct and I think generally speaking they think the situation wasn't handled ideally," says Ian Linnabary, hearing officer for the Fire and Police Commission.
But after months of hearings, back-and-forth with lawyers, the commissioners say there was not enough probable cause to warrant a full hearing.
"The mayor interfered with that capacity my making public statements about what his position was," says Dan Cain, attorney for the Rockford Police Union.
The union claims the mayor got in the way of the process. In February, Morrissey introduced an ordinance to Rockford City Council try to change who could hire or fire the police chief. Right now, it's up to the Fire and Police Commission. City Council voted the mayor's proposal down.
"My activities, he's disappointed in them. He can be disappointed all he wants. I'm disappointed in the fact that they have been so unaware and obtuse with this work that the chief has been doing and I've been doing to try to help move this community forward," Morrissey says.
Morrissey says he is considering re-introducing the ordinance to give the mayor the power to discipline, hire or fire the chief.
"Frankly what's most important to me is however we do it take ownership as elected officials in the leadership of our police department. I'm not going to be mayor forever. Whoever is mayor and whoever is chief there needs to be a tight connection between them in order to move forward. But more importantly there needs to be an outstanding connection between our citizenry, our police leadership and our union leadership," Morrissey says.
Although the commissioners voted there was no probable cause in the complaint against the chief it will still take two to three weeks for the written ruling to come out. The police union says at that time they will decide what their next actions will be.