Acting assistant police chief credits mother's influence
Anthony Cobb, who grew up in Champaign, said his mother's discipline at home was the biggest influence in his life, including how he works as a policeman.
"My mom didn't play," said Cobb, who was promoted a little more than a year ago to command the patrol division for the Urbana Police Department.
"She was a strong disciplinarian," Cobb said. "If you did something right, she'd tell you. If you did something wrong, she'd let you know that was not acceptable."
All the hazing he had to go through as a plebe at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point was no problem, Cobb said.
"I can clean a room," he said with a chuckle.
Since July, Cobb has been working as acting assistant chief of police in place of Pat Connolly, who is in training at the FBI National Academy.
Cobb, 37, was hired as an Urbana police officer in September 1992. He was Urbana's first community policing officer and was promoted to sergeant in December 1998. He misses the streets.
"I miss the people," Cobb said. "I don't have as much contact with people on the streets, with people."
"I will get back out there," Cobb said. "When I get back to patrol (supervision), I can get back in uniform and get out on the streets more."
Growing up locally, he knows Champaign-Urbana, Cobb said, and he is related to many families in the black community.
Knowing people he has to deal with as a police officer helps give him some insight, but it hurts if they try to exploit a relationship and expect him to "cut them a break," which rarely happens, he said.
"If someone knows me and I know that they are trying to better themselves or their community, I will try to do what I can, but I try to be fair to the best of my ability," Cobb said.
Cobb said the philosophy of community policing – officers knowing a neighborhood and residents knowing the officers – has always been what he practiced.
At Centennial High School, he was on the student council and was senior class president and captain of the football team. He was also president of Urbana Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 70 from August 2004 to June 2006, and also served as vice president and treasurer.
Sylvia Morgan, an acting lieutenant currently filling Cobb's role as patrol commander, said she has worked with Cobb on the streets and in investigations. She also worked with him in the police union.
Although now a member of management, Cobb "continues to consider the union's point of view in an effort to be fair and just in his leadership," she said.
"Anthony can take charge of any situation," she said. "He is not afraid to stand up and fight for what is right."
Cobb is the second of five sons of Delores Derricks.
His brothers include Stefon, a truck driver in Bloomington; Domonic, an interim vice chancellor at the University of Illinois; and twins Steven, a principal at a middle school in the Bronx borough of New York City, and Kendric, an attorney in Chicago.
"I respect and appreciate a strong work ethic," Cobb said.
Derricks, 57, of Urbana, said she raised all of her boys to think of the consequences of their actions.
If they misbehaved, she would come up with a chore that would accomplish something and give them time to think about what they had done, Derricks said. For example, they would dust and polish furniture with Q-tips, or trim the grass along the driveway with scissors.
Derricks said Anthony was always a leader, even as a young boy.
"He was a very logical child," Derricks said. "I didn't dream he would go into police work."
Cobb said his mother and police supervisors, including Chief Mike Bily, stress the importance of being accountable for your own actions.
"If I am supposed to do something and I don't do it, I know I am going to be held accountable," Cobb said.
Cobb said he has learned to help those who choose to help themselves and to respect the decisions that adults make, even if he thinks those decisions are bad choices.
"As a citizen, neighbor or professional, I have the ability and opportunity to help many people," Cobb said. "I strive to help anyone who is taking steps to better themselves or their situation. On the occasions when I run across someone who is making poor decisions even after I may have bent over backwards to assist them, I will not hesitate to do my job and hold the individual accountable for their actions, or, in other words, respect the decisions that this adult has made."