Champaign Police Chief Cobb On Relations Between Police And African-Americans
Champaign Police Chief Anthony Cobb says his department is working to improve relations with African-American residents, with the help of community input through the Champaign Community Coalition.
In an earlier interview, Champaign County NAACP President Patricia Avery discussed the difficulties she sees in relations between police and the African-American community. She called for changes in police operations, including the use of police body cameras and a requirement that officers live in the city.
Champaign Police Chief Anthony Cobb declined to comment on Avery's proposals until he could talk to her about them (although he says the idea of police body cameras is under discussion).
Cobb is the second African-American to hold the post of police chief in Champaign, following William Dye more than 30 years ago.
Illinois Public Media’s Jim Meadows asked Cobb about interactions between police and African-Americans today.
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Transcript for file: news20141216_cobbinterview.mp3
I think our interactions have gotten better over the last couple years but we still have a very very long way to go. We’re working hard to find a way to keep our officers engaged in the community and the work around would be coalition has been very powerful. We’re moving to phase two and the coalition and grow as a growing force a number of partners who come into the coalition and how we’re working to leverage our resources to work with that I mean those are powerful. Is there work to be done to say Champaign. Yes there’s a lot of it when you look at the violence that we’re seeing for the gun violence that we’ve seen over the last couple years is very concerning and there’s a lot of work that we can do a lot fortunate with our partners in a community in all walks of our community to make this place a better place and I was going to ask about the Community Coalition which I guess a few years ago was called the police and community partnership. It sounds like it’s gotten more active and more energetic over the years it’s grown we actually are a group that is consisting of multiple people from individual to social service agencies faith based government we’re all part of the table trying to have a common voice. Let’s look for issues let’s listen to each other and let’s address concerns. They’re still goal teams that are set up. Goldens are working towards resolving issues within the community. Some The work that will prime working towards this year is always going to be working toward a healthy family you look at it on this gun violence as a huge issue a champaign police department local law enforcement that will be looking to our partners and talking about and what more can we do to rid our community of these issues.
Can you give me an example of some of the things the coalition has been able to bring about the things that are different in that police community relations today.
I think the biggest success you can look at towards a coalition be the use assessment center. Recognize that building and that resource will not be available to our community today it would not have been for the Coalition is the youth assessment center. Everything we wanted to be at this point in time no . But is a huge treasure that will work in making tweaks and to make it better. Forest diverting young people away from the system is a one stop shopping. Summary work is an assessment as a screen saying what can we do to find out what’s going on and young people why they may cause him to act in a manner to cause when it comes to our justice system. But what can we do to fix those issues so that they don’t have to remain or come into the criminal justice system and divert them away from it.
That’s huge and that’s really sounds like a way of connecting youth with maybe services that attention. Short of going into the criminal justice system of being prosecuted for something.
So I mean we’re taking some social service people who are better skilled at providing the service and law enforcement they’re actually doing assessment tools they’re actually looking at it and see what type referrals can name eight to provide services young people posted at my office or with whom we wrestle . That’s not our background we don’t have a social work background of things that nature. We would be just put in the criminal justice system to be prosecuted and that’s not always the best name especially for young people as a young person. Mistakes happen that’s part of growing up we get that that me you need to go from a justice system for that so we’re very proud of the used Assessment Center doing something proactive to get in front of our higher issues within our community .
He said that there’s been strides made in the last couple of years and besides just the work of the the community coalition is there a difference in how police are doing their work or a difference in how the community is responding.
I think there may be a little bit different for us how the community spawning maybe a little bit of softening we were approached or we look at things from different angle. Please understand before I got here Champaign police department the champagne please pardon me for writing quality police service to our community that has not changed . There’s nothing that I’ve done to detract from that we have done some things to enhance that I would hope but at the same token what a big issue or Yet problems and my pain was our relationship and our openness and to deal with things of that community. So no we aren’t and got it because of our organization things that we made and some other we may have gotten it just because of the history and the frustration people have but what we’ve been working to really do great sharing please promise to have a healthy dialogue and that dialogue has been ongoing not just from this awful place within this organization talking with our citizens partnering with our services taking issues trying to be accountable credible and transparent as we do an issue those are three things we’ve been striving to do and it has served us well up into this point in time .
So it sounds like there’s more communications going on and more communications outside of say a moment of crisis when the police are called.
It’s always best if we can deal with our issues when emotion is not involved. It helps us all to be a little bit more open a little bit more tolerant looking at different viewpoints. It’s unfortunate that when emotion gets involved a lot and we get shut down so focus on our issues. Both the police in the community and so the thing is we’re trying to have a lot more dialogue before the emotion gets to have those relations built so emotion is there there’s some trust and we can talk through something but we always want to make sure cooler heads always prevail and we do what’s best for our community as a whole. That’s what we’re striving for and the biggest thing we’re preaching to our offices here is to continue to be served at a public service that we hire you to be continue to provide quality police service that we do when a police officer is not an easy job and our guys understand that but at same token it’s a job we chose to do is a job we want to do and we want to do well in the wake of the shootings in New York and Ferguson and the whole national conversation this is brought up with all that in mind what do you want people to know about their police department in Champaign. What the public should understand I hope people take away that we have a quality very qualified professional police department here in the ship and police department. We’re not perfect but we’re deftly making strides to improve yourself and the relation of their community. One of big things will be working on in two thousand and fifteen here is how to become more engaged with our service and how to be go become more engaged in activities within a community we do several outreach components over two hundred a year but the same token we want to find a way to get every man and woman engaged on a regular basis was something with our citizens and our non-enforcement standpoint where the public can see our human side as well as we get the opportunity see see different things from different folks at different times so to say between a coalition has been very helpful in helping foster that for us so we’re looking to get over that next hurdle I think in two thousand and fifty. What we horses and community dialogues as we build a plan as we talk through where we think Shippey police departments heading into the future.