Epperson: It'll be different not being a police officer anymore - WREX.com – Rockford’s News Leader

Epperson: It'll be different not being a police officer anymore

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ROCKFORD (WREX) -

After nearly 10 years at the helm of the Rockford Police Department, Friday is Police Chief Chet Epperson's last day.

He is retiring after 33 years with the force.

He said minus a few physical differences now, he's still the same idealistic officer who joined the department in 1985.

In his last interview as police chief, he told 13 News Anchor Sean Muserallo he had no regrets.

"I'm glad I answered the phone call when Lloyd Johnston called me.  I knew there was a problem when he called me a second time," said Epperson, referring to the 2012 domestic incident at the former NACCP leader's home.  Epperson would later be called in front of the Fire and Police Commissioners for a complaint hearing in which he was eventually cleared.

Epperson said he learned a lot about himself as a patrol officer working the streets of Rockford when he first started out.

"I think the best in people," said Epperson.  "It's really hard for me to take anything less than a good job."

His most vocal critics said he did fail on his early promise when he was sworn in to make the community safer.  Safe enough to sit on your front porch without a worry in the world.

"Are there issues now with violent crime? Certainly there are, but we're in a better position then back when I took over," said Epperson.  "There are places in Rockford that you weren't comfortable going on your porch back in 2006."

That was the year Epperson was named police chief.  It was also around the time Rockford Mayor Larry Morrissey was elected into office.  Epperson said the two naturally aligned.  But Muserallo asked Epperson if he thinks it may have isolated him from others by doing so.

"It's never been Chet and Larry," said Epperson.  "It's been a very professional relationship based upon our positions were in.  I want to be very straight about this: the mayor has never told me who to arrest and who not to arrest. I've never been given political pressure to arrest somebody."

Epperson said he doesn't see geopolicing going away after he leaves. It's been at play in District 2 in the city the longest.  Crime still exists there, but Epperson said don't just point to this policing strategy as the solution.

"Our funding and our operations only allows us to arrest people and to put the cops out there that if we can predict certain crimes can happen," said Epperson.  "I have no problem telling the citizens of Rockford or the policymakers, that if that's the thought, that we need to arrest more people and put more people in the Winnebago County Jail, you'll interview me in ten years, and we'll be talking about the same thing."

Friday at 5:01 p.m., he's done.  He begins his new role as a police practices expert with the New Orleans Police Department.  It's a new hat he's putting on as he takes off the one he's been wearing for decades.

"I'm excited about leaving," said Epperson.  "At times, I get a little sad.  It's been a  great job.  It'll be different not being a police officer. I'm 53-years-old, and I've been doing this for 33 years.  So, it'll be different."

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