Police chief: timing, family played role in retirement decison

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URBANA — The police chief decided to step down, which will be effective next month. On Tuesday, Chief Pat Connolly sat down with us and says timing played a big part in this decision and so did family. He says this just felt like the right time. He was planning to retire in the next six months anyway. Since the city will have a new mayor next month, he thought this would be a good opportunity for a fresh start. This also gives him the chance to do something he’s been missing out on a lot lately – spending quality time being a husband, dad and grandfather.

Connolly has been working in Urbana for almost 30 years. But now the days are ticking down to when he retires.

“Every police officer in the nation, every firefighter in the nation, every paramedic and first responder gives up weekends, gives up Christmas, gives up plays at their school because of unique hours they all work,” said Connolly.

Connolly says he’s ready to get those hours back to spend with his family. Plus he feels confident about the people he’s worked with for decades.

“I’m happy to say that it’s time for this old guy to move over and let some new folks in,” said Connolly.

A lot has changed since he started. A Civilian Police Review Board was created and Urbana officers got tasers. They were some of the last in the state to get them, but Connolly says they’re important tools as they adapt to new challenges.

“We have police officers who care about people suffering from behavioral health disorders or mental health related issues and we have people who are volunteering to be Crisis Intervention Team officers,” said Connolly.

Connolly says his officers want to help people and he’s proud to see what they’ve done under his watch.

“Those traditional policing methods are still there, but there’s so much more that has evolved,” said Connolly. “Urbana, I think, has led the way in a lot of that with a progressive approach to policing.”

He believes that will continue with whoever takes over after him. Connolly still plans to be active in the community. He says he wants to teach, but for now, he’s mostly just focused on being with family.

Connolly says he was very happy with his time on the force. One of his biggest worries was to have an officer-involved shooting, where one of his workers got shot or had to shoot at someone else. He says he’s grateful that never happened.

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