Rockford, Illinois News

Rockford names interim fire, police chiefs

ROCKFORD — Rockford’s Fire and Police Commission, on Wednesday announced the appointment of Robert Vertiz to interim fire chief and Randy Berke to interim police chief.

A lifelong Rockford resident, Vertiz has been with the Rockford Fire Department for almost 32 years and has held the position of division chief of training since 2018. He is responsible for the administrative and management work involved in planning, organizing, directing and supervising the department’s fire and emergency medical services training programs. He previously held the position of EMS coordinator.

Vertiz will begin as interim chief May 8.

Berke is a 27-year veteran the Rockford Police Department and currently serves as the assistant deputy chief over Police District 2, where he plans, assigns and supervises patrol operations; develops goals for staffing, crime trends and operational procedures; and reviews citizen complaints and misconduct investigations. Berke is a graduate of the FBI National Academy and has served on the SWAT team for 24 years.

In his various leadership roles, Berke has supervised many departments, including the Sensitive Crimes Unit, the Rockford Narcotics Unit and the Community Services Unit. Chief Berke has been a resident of Rockford since he was hired by the department in 1994. He’ll begin his new post May 1.

“Both Chief Bergsten and Chief O’Shea have done a fantastic job developing the leadership skill of their teams during their tenures,” Fire and Police Commissioner Sam Schmitz said in a release. “I believe Chief Vertiz and Chief Berke will be able to seamlessly step into these new roles, while the Commission conducts a national search for permanent replacements.”

Mayor Tom McNamara said: “I appreciate the hard work of the three citizens on the Fire and Police Commission,” says Mayor Tom McNamara. “After selecting Interim Chiefs, they now begin an even more difficult task of launching national searches for two chief positions simultaneously. I know the commissioners are committed to finding the very best candidates to serve our community.”

Per Fire and Police Commission requirements, those who will be applying for the permanent positions are not eligible for the interim positions.

The citizen led Fire and Police Commission oversees hiring and promotions for the Rockford Police and Fire departments and is made up of three Schmitz, Ingrid Hargrove and Rudy Valdez.