After Six Months, Champaign Council Praises Cobb
By Jeff Bossert
Six months on the job, and Champaign Police Chief Anthony Cobb is getting high marks for a department that’s seen a lot of changes.
When hired in March, Cobb saw a number of officers leaving through attrition, and there was an 18-month hiring freeze. But he’s filled four positions since then, including three in the last three weeks.
But many other new hires will require a year’s training through the University of Illinois.
“The Police Training Institute just opened back up – we have officers in that class," he said. "The next class is not offered until January, so I could look at other service academies, but there’s a lot of costs that would be associated with that, and it would be contrary to what we’re trying to do. PTI is where we’ve training our officers for decades, and we don’t want to transition away from that.”
One of the first changes Cobb made was to make sure he saw officer complaints the next business day. He says it’s part of an overhaul of how the department deals with them, and that includes dialogue in the community.
"We meet with them regular to talk about ways to improve the process," he said. "We started a dialogue as well with Deputy City Manager Joan Walls' office and spoken with her staff, and seeing if they can help us with vetting complaints and going through it so that we are getting more than just a police flavor from it, but we want to make sure continue to take into account the human side of everything."
The update before city council on policing strategies also brought praise for how officers have built partnerships with Urbana and University of Illinois Police, and the restoring of initiatives, like bike patrols in the Campustown area.
One area officers would like to improve - building relationships with the public. Lieutenant David Shaffer of the city’s Northwest District says community interaction in neighborhoods like Garden Hills has been valuable to preventing crime.
Even community activist Martel Miller, a frequent critic of city police, says "people notice a change in the department."
Meanwhile, Police Chief Cobb says he plans an update soon on the early Sunday morning shooting involving a Champaign officer. The Illinois State Police and other agencies are looking into the incident on Crispus Drive, in which a man forced his way into a home with a gun.
The suspect was injured and taken to Carle Hospital after being shot by an officer, but Cobb has not said whether shots were fired at police, or updated the man’s condition. The officer is paid investigative leave.
There was no mention of the incident by police or the public during Tuesday’s city council meeting.