Police conduct search for a new chief

Someone who can communicate, can regain the trust and connect with the city’s diverse community: Those were the qualities Champaign residents and organizers emphasized at the Douglass Community Center on Monday night where they met to discuss what they want to see from a new Champaign police chief.

Current Champaign Police Chief R.T. Finney will be “stepping down”:https://www.dailyillini.com/index.php/article/2011/08/finneys_exit_lets_police_start_anew in January, with a successor to be named that month.

The community meeting’s intent was to address challenges and opportunities the new chief will have to face, as well as describe the ideal chief in terms of personality and skills.

Champaign city council members and police officials were in attendance.

One of the main concerns was how the next chief would rebuild trust with the community after the 2009 police shooting where 15-year-old “Kiwane Carrington”:https://www.dailyillini.com/index.php/article/2011/02/carrington_case_closes_not_ruled_civil_rights_violation was killed.

Champaign resident Joyce Hurd said the community still needs to heal from that incident, where Finney was one of two officers involved.

“As an issue, it hasn’t completely gotten away from me,” Hurd said. “It’s like it was swept under the rug.”

One of the youngest in attendance was 21-year-old Dante Scott, who works at the community center.

He said he had a good relationship with the former chief, and that he knows in order to regain trust within Champaign, particularly the “black community”:https://www.dailyillini.com/index.php/article/2011/04/4db6454f9823d, the police’s next leader must be ready to participate.

“I’ve noticed a lot of times you would see the last police chief around and he would come and say what needed to be said,” Scott said. “Participation in the community is a big way to build trust back in the community.”

Communicating with the community means being active within the Champaign community and not remain behind a desk and having “nobody know who you are,” said Bill Glithero, Champaign resident and community activist. He also suggested hiring from within instead of looking for someone outside of Champaign.

“If you are a Champaign police officer, then you should be from Champaign,” Glithero said.

Diversity in Champaign was also addressed. A few people in attendance suggested the hiring of more minority officers. Mark Aber, one of the round table facilitators and member of the Champaign Community and Police Partnership, said he hoped for a more diverse force but said the hiring of minority officers has fallen recently after a small increase the past few years.

Whether positive or negative, organizers felt the community meeting helped inform the chief search.

Police Lieutenant Jon Swenson said the search for Finney’s replacement officially started last Friday.

He added that it was great to hear that his criteria for the leader of the Champaign Police Department is similar to the public’s.

“What I envision that person to be and what the community envisions is the same thing,” Swenson said.