By Shane Nicholson
With his family and Mayor Larry Morrissey by his side, Police Chief Chet Epperson Tuesday announced his retirement from the Rockford Police Department, effective Friday, Nov. 13.
“I’ve been appointed to the Federal Monitoring Team of the New Orleans Police Department Consent Decree,” said Epperson. “The demands of a police chief and a federal police consent decree member are time-consuming and demanding positions.
“I’ve come to the decision that I need to focus on one. After 33-and-a-half years of being employed by the City of Rockford Police Department, in consultation with my immediate family and prayers, the time now is to move on.”
Epperson thanked the many people he worked with during his time with the department and said that he felt content that he was leaving the city in a better place than when he took over as chief.
“It’s been a privilege to have been surrounded with such committed professionals,” he said. “We have accomplished much over the years: community and geographic policing; constitutional policing with regards to principled policing practices.
“Rockford is fortunate to be in the position we are now and with our police department.”
“Chief Epperson has been a rock solid, steadfast, and stalwart leader of the Rockford Police Department over the course of his entire career,” commented Mayor Morrissey. “I thank him for his service and dedication to our community.”
The mayor said the City Council’s search for both an interim and permanent chief was already underway in consultation with the Board of Fire and Police Commissioners, though no shortlist for a replacement had been drawn up.
“I think we have an incredible Fire and Police Commission; they’ve done incredible work,” Mayor Morrissey said. “We’ll be making a recommendation to the commission in short order about an interim chief.”
Morrissey said that while some changes in the hierarchy of the department should be expected, that the overall mission of the police department will continue unabated.
The mayor credited Chief Epperson with spearheading many reforms in the city that are now being implemented throughout the state, included the National Incident Based Reporting system, a record management practice allowing identification of crime trends, allowing the department to better allocate resources and officers.
Both Morrissey and Epperson touted the benefits of geographic policing on the community. The mayor said that despite an uptick in violent crime–consistent with trends across the nation in 2015–that plans brought in under Epperson’s watch had helped reduce the overall crime rate in the community.
“The system we have in place from a management standpoint is the best system we can possibly put in the field today,” Morrissey said. “I thank the chief for his efforts in getting us to this point.”
The mayor said that the City Council, along with the Fire and Police Commission, will look at both internal and external candidates to fill the permanent role.
Chief Epperson will continue to serve as chief until his Nov. 13 retirement date, upon which he will receive his full retirement benefit of 75 percent of his salary. He and his family plan to remain in Rockford.
A reception to honor the outgoing chief will be held on Friday, Nov. 13, 2015 from 1-4 p.m. in the City Hall lobby.
Photo: Mayor Larry Morrissey addresses the media as Police Chief Chet Epperson and his wife Rita look on. Epperson announced his retirement effective Nov. 13 at a Tuesday press conference. | Shane Nicholson