Rockton welcomes and names new police chief
With the retirement of Rockton Police Chief Steve Dickson, a new chief was needed - one with the right experience.
At the June 7 meeting of the Rockton Board of Trustees, former Deputy Chief Matt Hollinger was officially sworn in as Rockton's new Police Chief. Hollinger brings 28 years of experience in law enforcement into his position.
While in high school, he was involved in Police Explorers and was fortunate to have completed an internship with the Mendota Police. A father of one of Hollinger's friends was a police officer and Hollinger's interest in law enforcement began through his stories.
“ I started doing ride-alongs with the local police. I was hooked after I was able to be involved in some investigations and a high speed pursuit,” Hollinger said.
Hollinger attended Illinois Valley Community College for Criminal Justice Studies for two years.
Hollinger reflects on this experience. “I was anxious to move on to the workforce and began my building my skills for law enforcement by becoming a loss prevention representative at numerous retail businesses in the Rockford and Freeport area.”
“For a couple of years, my job was to wear regular clothing while walking around the store and identifying those individuals who were unwilling to pay for the products. I had the pleasure of working with several loss prevention personnel that are currently police officers in the Rockford area to this day,” Hollinger said.
Soon after, Hollinger was hired by Rockton Police after being introduced to Rockton PD staff.
“Throughout his career Hollinger has been a patrol officer, was assigned as an investigator with the Northern Illinois Auto Theft Task Force [PDF] in Rockford, has been a patrol sergeant and served as the Deputy Chief of Police for the past 10 years.
Hollinger said, “Throughout my career, I’ve had the privilege of building relationships with so many great men and women in law enforcement and I look forward to continuing to develop those relationships as the police chief. I’m very grateful to have been sent to Northwestern University Center for Public Safety School of Police Staff and Command and many other Police Executive training opportunities.”
He adds, “I value the relationships that I’ve built in the law enforcement community and the Rockton community. While doing this, I’ve realized how important it is to show the people I’ve met that first and foremost, I’m a family man, I’m a friend, a neighbor or a coach. I value the relationships with our two school districts and we routinely have conversations with school administration regarding school safety. Our officers truly enjoy working with the faculty and students.”
“While both of my children have graduated, their experience in the Rockton School District and Hononegah High School was wonderful and certainly prepared them for college,” Hollinger said.
“I look forward to serving as Chief and I’m excited to continue to move forward with some of the new technology we’ve brought to our department over the past year. We’ve added new in- car cameras with Automatic License Plate Reader capabilities, Body Worn Cameras, a new scheduling platform and we’re currently reviewing a need to add additional cameras and additional license plate technology in our community. My plan is to involve the community with video and digital image sharing so that we all can be involved in crime prevention.
“We’re preparing to add two officers to our department either through an experienced officer or lateral entry application process and an entry level program. We’re also in the process of identifying our next patrol sergeants this month as we have several patrol officers interviewing for the supervisor position with the Rockton Police Commission.”
“I am so proud and fortunate to team up with our current administrative staff and law enforcement personnel. All of these individuals are well trained and understand the needs of our community. I look forward to seeing progress and growth in our leadership as we move forward.”
“This is also an exciting time to be included with planning for future events in Rockton. Village President Peterson and the village staff continue to bring some great ideas for entertaining and hosting events to not only bring our community closer together but also showcase what our downtown area has to offer.”
During the public comment portion of the June 7 meeting, Jeff Schelling, who had a 33 year career in Rockford and has served as Durand's Police Chief, spoke of Hollinger's character. "Steve Dickson and Matt helped me over the years. Matt has served with empathy and compassion. We have developed a special friendship. All of our officers share the same sentiments. The extension of this department goes beyond village limits; they are holding the line and doing everything with great professionalism," Schelling said.
Village President John Peterson said, “We had 27 years of a fantastic police chief and it gives me great pride to have Matt Hollinger become our new police chief.”
As family, friends and community looked on, Matt Hollinger was sworn in by Rockton Village Clerk Christina Stewart. His son Nathan placed the pin on his lapel. His wife Kristin was there in support. Many officers from the Rockton Police Department were also there in support.
Hollinger thanked his family for dealing with the effects that often might come with the job.
Hollinger recognized his daughter's friends who were in attendance both at his swearing in and who were recently at his daughter's graduation party. He recognized Pastor Dan Herman for his friendship and coffee talks.
"Chief Dickson, we have shared an office for 10 years; I thank you. I look forward to the future and working with this new board." He thanked Scott Fridly for his candor. Hollinger recognized his close lifelong friend Chad McNett. He thanked Jeff Schelling for his kind words. “I will give it my best,” Hollinger said.