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Urbana Asst. Police Chief Chosen as Champaign Police Chief

Urbana Assistant Police Chief Anthony Cobb has been selected as the new chief of police for the city of Champaign.

Champaign City Manager Steve Carter said Cobb has a solid track record based on his 20-year tenure with the Urbana Police Department.

"He's very clear from a leadership standpoint, which is really important about understanding the issues and some of the things that need to be done," Carter said.

Cobb said his top priority will be to improve morale within the Champaign police force.

The issue of police community relations in the department has come under scrutiny in the last few years following the 2009 police shooting death of teenager, Kiwane Carrington.

A number of citizens have also alleged that Champaign police have used excessive force when arresting two African American youths in the last few months.

Cobb said he plans to take a closer look at the department's use of force policy, and work to improve relations with the community.

"Situations and obstacles that we're facing at the Champaign Police Department, those didn't come about overnight and we're not going to get them corrected overnight. It's going to take time. It's going to take commitment. It's going to take effort," " Cobb said. "I would love to get to the point when I'm ready to retire from the city of Champaign, everyone who's back here says he's done a good job."

Champaign County NAACP President Patricia Avery said she is looking forward to working with Cobb. She said having someone who is familiar with Champaign-Urbana will go a long way.

"He has shown that he is a leader in the community," Avery said. "I think his community policing speaks for itself. So, I think that we're off to a great start with our new Chief Cobb."

Cobb has been with the Urbana Police Department since 1992, starting off as a patrol officer for about four years, later advancing to a school resource juvenile officer, to eventually becoming assistant chief of police in 2010. He was the department's first community policing officer, and he piloted a program related to the Urbana Police Department's current community policing approach.

"A lot of people feel that since I'm an African American from an African American community that's where all my interests and talents are going to lie," Cobb said. "That's not true. I am committed to the citizens of Champaign period."

The last time Champaign had an African American police chief was in the early 1980's with William Dye, who held that position from 1975 until 1982.

Cobb was selected to lead Campaign's Police Department from a field of more than 45 candidates following the retirement of R.T. Finney in Jan. 2012. He will join the Champaign Police Department on March 12, and will earn a salary of $140,000 a year.

(Photo by Sean Powers/WILL)