Presidential task force on community policing: How Rockford stac - WREX.com – Rockford’s News Leader

Presidential task force on community policing: How Rockford stacks up?

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ROCKFORD (WREX) - Fighting crime, while building trust: two things police departments here and across the country are asked to do in a community.

How to do it is being debated.  A report out this week from a Presidential Task Force is giving Rockford's Police Chief some guidance on what his department, and others across the nation, should be doing to protect and serve their communities better.

Chief Chet Epperson was supposed to be in Washington, D.C., last weekend for a meeting with the nation's leading police chiefs, but he stayed home.

"With the officer-involved shootings and the other shootings we had, I felt it was best I stay here," said Epperson.

One of his officers, now identified as patrolman David Cerasa, shot and killed an alleged suicidal man on Friday.  Investigators said the man fired a semi-automatic rifle at police.  Cerasa and other officers fired back.

"We don't push the easy button when we have a barricaded subject or someone we can talk to first to deescalate the situation," said Epperson.  "We also use the services of Rosecrance.  It was a totally different situation with what occurred Friday. That would not have been an opportunity to call in a mental health worker when there is an active shooter."

Chief Epperson cannot comment about the specifics of the case, but he says that is the way it should be.  The only comments in an officer-involved shooting like this come from an outside agency reviewing the patrolman's use of force.  One example, the chief said, of how Rockford is already instituting 21st Century Policing policies recommended by the President's Task Force.

"In terms of use of force, policies, investigation, practices, review, complaint system and a lot of things we've already been doing over the years," said Epperson.  "It was a lot of affirmation to the city and to our department and our officers who were ahead of the game."

The President's Task Force was created in light of the Ferguson protests.  The group found the justice system along cannot solve many of the underlying problems in a community.

"There are some things we can do additionally in terms of building additional trust within our community and getting in some of the most marginalizes areas of the City of Rockford," said Epperson.

Cerasa is on paid administrative duty pending the outcome of the investigation.
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