Acting chief given permanent role

By Jonathan Jacobson

Before a packed council chamber Wednesday morning, Mayor Laurel Prussing announced her choice for Urbana’s new chief of police.

Mike Bily, 45, who has been the acting police chief since last December, was selected to fill the role abdicated by former Chief Eddie Adair.

All that remains is his approval by the city council on May 1, which Prussing said is very likely since she has already spoken with each council member.

“If anybody knows the job, it’s Mike Bily,” Prussing said during the conference. “He really understands the department thoroughly.”

Bily has been with the Urbana Police Department for 21 years and became assistant chief of police in July 2004.

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    He has amassed more than 2,600 hours of law enforcement training, including a 400-hour course at Northwestern University’s Center for Public Safety.

    Bily said that as police chief, his plans include finding more resources for the police department, dealing with the manpower shortage and maintaining diversity on the staff.

    Since he has participated in hiring, five of the last 10 officers have been either minorities or female, he said.

    Bily also wants to increase citizen involvement in police matters and said the city’s decision to create a citizen review board can be a great benefit to citizens and police officers.

    “There are no citizen review boards in central Illinois,” Bily said.

    The department has done research on boards in other areas.

    “We’ve learned quite a bit about them,” Bily said.

    Prussing said Bily competed with “very qualified applicants,” including Evanston Police Chief Frank Kaminski.

    Bily and other applicants had to pass through four panels, including city department heads, police officers from both Urbana and Champaign and a community panel, Prussing said.

    “As recently as yesterday, the mayor and I were still in conversation,” said Bily, who did not find out about his appointment much sooner than anyone else.

    Adair, who joked with Bily throughout the morning, said “he has worked so hard – he has really, really been focused.”

    Prussing suggested that Bily has the support of all council members, three of whom were present.

    “If we don’t keep him as chief, someone else will,” Councilman Charlie Smyth (Ward 1) said.

    A standing ovation accompanied Bily’s appointment, but he remained humble when one of the crowd members addressed him as chief.

    “Mike is fine,” he said.