Champaign Releases Review of Police Dept., Appoints Interim Chief

November 16, 2011

City officials in Champaign have completed a review looking at alleged favoritism in the police department.

The review was prompted by an anonymous e-mail sent to city officials on Aug. 18, 2011, which raised internal issues at the police department.

City Manager Steve Carter said during the review, some police employees felt they hadn't been treated with respect on the job. While he said that has impacted working relationships among police officers, he maintained that it has not dampened police service.

"These have been very stressful times really for everybody for budgetary reasons, and obviously police community relations," Carter said. "You're going to have disagreements that occur inside a large organization, and it's just important to try to address those concerns as well as you can, so that you can get back and focus on your work."

According to the review of the police department, Carter said there was no indication of wrongdoing with the process for the lieutenant's promotion exam. However, he did offer up some recommended changes to the test, including eliminating the oral interview and departmental rating sections.

"(The departmental ratings portion) is admittedly a very subjective part of the process," Carter explained. "People's prediction or how they feel this particular employee will do in the new position is not really a performance evaluation."

To make the process more fair, Carter is pushing to add an employee's past performance appraisal ratings to the exam. He also said employees should be allowed to participate in the assessment process.

The Board of Fire and Police Commission would have to approve the suggested changes.

While Carter noted that there is room for improvement within the police department, he said he is confident about its future.

Meanwhile, while the search continues for retiring Champaign Police Chief R.T. Finney's replacement, Deputy Chief Holly Nearing will serve in that role on an interim basis.

Nearing, a 29-year Champaign Police veteran, will become the city's first female police chief. She will be responsible for building up trust within the police department.

"I'll have the job of being the police chief and responding to community issues, issues that officers might be having, but also this mending fences role to set the table for the next police chief so he or she has maybe a smoother path," Nearing said.

Nearing will take over for Chief Finney on Dec. 5.

Carter said there are four finalists in the running for the police department's top job, all of whom are connected to the Midwest. They will be interviewed in December, and will then each address the city council during a televised meeting. Carter noted that one of those people will likely be chosen for the job by the beginning of January, and could then start within a couple of months.

Story source: WILL