UPDATED 10:45 a.m.; 10:55 a.m.
CHAMPAIGN — The city’s new police chief already knows his way around town.
Anthony Cobb was named chief of Champaign police at a news conference Friday morning. He will take the post on March 12.
Cobb, 42, has been the assistant chief in Urbana, and was born and raised in Champaign.
In Champaign, the city manager hires the police chief. City Manager Steve Carter named Cobb to succeed R.T. Finney, who retired earlier this month. Cobb will earn $140,000 a year.
“Chief Cobb offers a solid track record of demonstrated success with twenty years of police experience in Urbana. His rise through the ranks and his exposure to all aspects of policing has prepared him for the duties in Champaign,” Carter said.
“Anthony will bring a high level of energy and passion and a strong combination of demonstrated experiences in community policing, management leadership, and intergovernmental cooperation which will enable the Champaign Police Department to continue to address community challenges professionally and effectively now and in the future. We expect him to be very visible in the community, continue our emphasis on community oriented policing and unify the department so we can continue to be one of the most well respected departments in the State of Illinois. We are extremely pleased to have Anthony, who is a product of our community, serve as the new Chief of the Champaign Police Department.”
Cobb was the choice over three other finalists: Oak Forest Police Chief Gregory Anderson, then-St. Louis police Lt. Col. Antoinette Filla and East Lansing, Mich., police Capt. Kim Johnson.
“I am honored to be selected to lead the men and women of the Champaign Police Department," Cobb said.
Cobb grew up in Champaign-Urbana and has been with the Urbana Police Department since September 1992. He was the city’s first community policing officer. He was a patrol sergeant from December 1998 to May 2006, when he was named a lieutenant and patrol division commander. He became assistant chief in October 2010. Current Chief Patrick Connolly and his predecessor, Mike Bily, both had been assistant chief before being named to the top spot in that city.
Cobb is the second African-American police chief in Champaign and the first in almost 30 years, since the resignation of William Dye in 1982.
The Champaign department has been hit by internal and external conflicts.
The department has been involved in several high-profile incidents involving African-Americans, including the fatal shooting of Kiwane Carrington in 2009 in what was reported to be a burglary in progress, police chases and a June 2011 pepper-spraying of a man on the University of Illinois campus.
An anonymous email criticized Finney and others for favoritism within the department in testing for promotions. The email said the test favored those who already had taken the test before, because reading material had been reused and they would be more familiar with it. Carter ruled there had been no wrongdoing, but cited failures in communication in the department.
The city council chambers became the scene of several highly charged meetings in which supporters and opponents took turns blasting and praising the department.
"I recognize the department and our community have some huge challenges in front of us," Cobb said. "I believe every challenge creates opportunity and I am confident that the hard working and dedicated employees of the Champaign Police Department are committed to provide responsive, caring, cost-effective service in partnership with our community.”