City seeks input from community for hiring a new police chief

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CHAMPAIGN, Ill. (WCIA) — “We absolutely need somebody who is an expert in policing,” Dorothy Ann David, Champaign City Manager, said.

That’s an important skill when picking a police chief, but she says their character and values matter just as much. The City of Champaign is asking the community for input on hiring a new police chief.

They held a meeting tonight at garden hills academy for members of the community to speak their opinions. Former Chief Anthony Cobb had his last day Friday and now Matt Henson is the interim police chief. Only about a handful of people came out to the meeting, but that doesn’t mean their voices weren’t heard.

“For the city of Champaign, the values and character of our leaders matter as much as their technical expertise,” David said.

The City of Champaign is searching for a new police chief, but they want your help to find the best candidate.

“I think someone, a police chief being someone engaged with the community with its force and very forward and thinking in their policing ways,” Chad Smith, Garden Hills Neighborhood Association President, said.

The City is holding a variety of meetings where community members will be asked a series of different questions. They had their first meeting tonight and asked questions like, “What three characteristics you want to see in a police chief?” And “What do you want the city manager to consider when hiring?”

“I thought this was an excellent conversation. I’m very grateful that people took time out of their busy lives to come and have a real conversation with us about what they are looking for in the next chief,” David said.

People at the meeting said they want to see a leader, someone who lives in the community, and someone who will hit the ground running. Smith also wants to see the new chief have more freedom to make decisions.

“I think that the reason we have a police chief and education and training they have is to go for policing and not the direction from city staff,” Smith said.

While it was a small turnout for the first meeting David is happy that people gave their opinions. She’s encouraging more people to come to the other meetings happening throughout the week.

“The more people who are willing to share their perspectives, which helps us make the best decision we can. I am the person who hires the next police chief, but I take my responsibility seriously that I’m doing it on behalf of a whole community,” David said.

This was the first of several meetings. If you missed the one tonight, the city is encouraging you to go to the other ones they have set up, or answer their online survey.

Chief of Police Community Meetings:

• Monday, August 9, 6-8:00 pm, Garden Hills Academy, 2001 Garden Hills Dr., Champaign

• Thursday, August 12, 2-4:00 pm, City Building (Council Chambers), 102 N. Neil St., Champaign

• Thursday, August 12, 6-8:00 pm, Barkstall Elementary School, 2201 Hallbeck Dr., Champaign

• Saturday, August 14, 10 am-noon, Douglass Branch Library, 504 E. Grove St., Champaign

• Saturday, August 14, 2-4:00 pm, Bethel AME Church, 401 E. Park St., Champaign

Members of the public who are unable to attend a community meeting, but wish to provide feedback are
encouraged by the city to complete a survey for each position. The surveys can be found on the City’s website (champaignil.gov/policechief) and (champaignil.gov/pwdirector), at the Champaign City Building (102 N. Neil St., Champaign), or can be mailed upon request by calling 217-403-8710. All survey responses
must be received by August 20, 2021.

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