Rockford, Illinois News

Fire and Police Commission to hear complaint against Rockford Police Chief Dan O’Shea

ROCKFORD – The Rockford Fire and Police Commission will hear a formal complaint against Police Chief Dan O’Shea at 10 a.m., Tuesday, at the City Hall.

The complaint was filed by a group of citizens who claim O’Shea violated the department’s policy against biased policing when he said during a May 18 press conference that he’s “got nothing” for teens who commit violent felonies and that their families failed them.

“The 16- and 17-year-olds that are running around shooting each other, we’re not wasting our time trying to save them,” O’Shea said in response to a rash of violent crimes, including homicides involving young offenders. “They’re lost. We’re trying to focus on the 3-, 4-, 5-year-olds all the way up through maybe 12, 13, where we have a chance at saving them and changing their lives and changing the direction they’re going in their life. And we’re only a part of it.

“They need family, they need relatives, they need you know, friends that will keep them on that path as well. Seventeen-year-olds that are going around committing murders and shooting at people, well, sorry, off to prison you go. I got nothing for you. Your family failed you up to this point, and there’s nothing we can do for you.”

O’Shea addressed the comments last month, apologizing that some people them out of context but not for making them, which drew further blowback.

“I would like to see the Fire and Police Commission take the time to hear the complaint in it’s entirety (and) consider the ways Dan O’Shea’s statements have negatively impacted the way the city of Rockford views our youth,” local resident Aija Penix, who delivered the complaint to the commission, said.

Penix said she would also like commissioners to examine O’Shea’s decisions to rehire officers who’d been previously terminated for misconduct, namely Jonathan Hedges, who was fired in 2016 by Interim Chief Patrick Hoey after a series of incidents, including a DUI arrest. The officer was also named in a civil lawsuit brought by Torrey T. Turner, of Rockford, who claimed Hedges beat him during a 2015 arrest. The city eventually settled the complaint for $110,000.

Penix added: “Dan O’Shea rehired (Hedges) because, in his words, ‘I believe in second chances for officers who run into issues in their careers if they are willing to recognize the issues, own the issues and are willing to take the necessary steps to correct those issues,’ yet, violent children in the age bracket of 16 and 17 are lost and a waste of the department’s time. I ultimately want the commission to hold the chief of police to the same standard he has set for his officers– a zero-tolerance for biased policing. He violated his own policy, and for this reason, he should be removed.”

Mayor Tom McNamara said while he doesn’t agree with O’Shea’s May 18 comments, he’s stands by the work the chief has done leading the police department.

“I stand behind Chief O’Shea 100%,” McNamara said. “In his four years as chief, he has immersed himself and the entire police force into our community. Under his leadership, the police department has developed programs for both young and old that have built relationships and bridged gaps between officers and the community that have existed for decades.

“While we still have improvements to make, our police department has been successful in addressing and lowering our violent crime rate throughout his tenure. Chief O’Shea is a tremendous asset to our police department and our community. He has my full support.”

Tuesday’s session is to determine if there is probable cause to conduct an evidentiary hearing.