Rockford Police 'Rock House' officers are going beyond the badge - WREX.com – Rockford’s News Leader

Rockford Police 'Rock House' officers are going beyond the badge to create safer streets

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ROCKFORD (WREX) -

At first glance Eric Thurmond is your standard Rockford Police officer. 

"I love my job. It's the best job in the world. I wouldn't want to do anything else," said the 25 year old Thurmond. 

From the badge on his arm to his morning routine of Dunkin Donuts coffee, when trouble calls he is the guy who wants to answer. 

But take a look at his day to day and you will see he is anything but your traditional cop. 

"Our overall goal is to create a sense of security for the community. Improve the quality of life. Get to know the neighbors," said Thurmond. 

He and partner, Patrice Turner, are doing that through a radical form of community policing. The two live in the disadvantaged neighborhoods that they protect. 

"We are here to build bridges," Thurmond said. "Community oriented policing, that's what COP stands for." 

Building bridges within the community and finding humanity in how they enforce the law. 

"The law is very clear cut," said Officer Patrice Turner. "It's very black and white. But humanity is not. You do have to think on the human side of things. If that were my relative how would I feel? If that were me  how would I feel?"

Providing a personal perspective into policing that traditional officers might miss. 

"Normal patrol officers, they get a call, they go to the call and they handle the call and they don't really know what happens afterwards," said Thurmond. "With me being the resident officer, I police my neighborhood. If anything goes on I can always go back and check on them because they're my neighbors." 

It's a new way to look at old problems. Rockford Police Chief Dan O'Shea said, ""The old models of policing, it doesn't solve the problem. We have a high recidivism rate. You go back to the same homes and the same areas for the same calls. What good is that doing? It doesn't solve the problem." 

The Rock House Officer program is only a year old, but strides toward safer neighborhoods have already been achieved. 

From 2016 to 2017, Rockford has seen a 5% drop in violent crime, 22% drop in robberies, a 30% drop in murders and the amount of car thefts have been cut in half. 

While crime has dropped, peace of mind for neighbors like Kristina Dismuke has increased.

The single mother lives three houses down from Officer Thurmond. His presence has helped decrease crime and has given purpose to neighbors. 

"It's better he's here," said Dismuke. "I've seen a change in it since he's been here. He's really done remarkable things. In just the little amount of time that he's been here he's really made an impact." 

An impact in the neighborhoods and an impact with area kids. 

"I'm a goofy guy who likes to dance and I'm a police officer as well,"  said Thurmond. "I want them to see us as people and not just a uniform" 

Changing stereotypes and building trust. 

"We form those relationships where we think of them more as friends instead of the citizens of Rockford and we the police," said Turner. 

"It used to the us versus them mentality", said Chief Dan O'Shea. "Now it's the we're all in this together mentality." 

Changing minds while creating a safer community from the ground up and the inside out. 

"It's nice to know that you job goes beyond your badge and your uniform," said Kristina Dismuke. "And just because he takes that uniform off, that don't mean his job is done. He's willing to do it inside the uniform and outside the uniform and that's what we need." 

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