URBANA — Longtime University of Illinois police Officer Jeff Christensen has been selected to become the next police chief and director of public safety for the Urbana campus.
Christensen has been the interim chief and director of public safety since February, following the departure of Barbara O'Connor. O'Connor, who left the UI to become chief and director of public safety at the University of Connecticut, had been the UI's chief since the summer of 2008. Christensen also was interim director during the search for O'Connor.
The appointment is pending approval of UI trustees at their July meeting in Chicago.
He will oversee a division with 84 full-time employees and a $6.5 million budget and earn an annual salary of $175,000.
Christensen said he was honored to be chosen for the position and called it a "dream job."
A UI graduate, Christensen initially studied calculus and physics before switching to sociology and criminology. He was one of the campus's first student-patrol supervisors. In 1985, Christensen joined the UI force as a patrol officer. He was promoted to lieutenant in 1990 and has been the department's deputy chief and assistant director since 2005. Christensen received a Chancellor's Distinguished Staff Award in 1998.
After O'Connor left the position earlier this year, the UI brought in search firm Hollins Group for $50,000 plus expenses to help conduct a national search for her replacement.
"I'm looking forward to working with the great people we have here, not only here (in the police department) but throughout campus and with neighboring agencies, including local, state and federal ones," he said.
Urbana Chancellor and Vice President Phyllis Wise said Christensen's long-time association with the university and its police department will be an advantage to him, the department and the university.
"We are so fortunate to have Jeff become our permanent police chief," Wise said in a release. "He is thoroughly familiar with the many issues that university police must face and he already is well-versed in specific campus issues, procedures and protocol," she said. "He brings to the job a goal of making our campus police department even better, as well as a host of already developed connections with our campus and external stakeholders. This will allow him to more easily share his vast experience and to develop strategies that safely lead our campus well into the future."
"We've always viewed ourselves as a professional organization, and we'll continue to improve professionalism and competency and continue to hire quality people. All our people really have passion for the safety of our campus," Christensen said.
Christensen he would like to revisit the division's strategic initiatives and "build them up a bit" by drafting a "plan that serves as a blueprint or control tower to know where we want to go."
Part of that strategic analysis will include an assessment of staffing and space needs, he said.
The UI Police Department recently received a grant to fund two new crime-prevention officers and another officer for crime analysis.
The No. 1 priority and driving force of the division, he said, remains the same: keeping students safe.