Anthony Cobb will face some obstacles as Champaign's new police chief, but with his excellent credentials, he should be up to the job.
The announcement last week that Anthony Cobb, the assistant police chief in Urbana, is slated to take over March 12 as chief in Champaign sets the stage for a new beginning in the sometimes-troubled department.
There are, of course, no guarantees when it comes to filling vacancies like the one created by the retirement of longtime Chief R.T. Finney. But Cobb brings excellent credentials to the table, one of which includes his familiarity with the Champaign-Urbana community.
It was pretty clear from the public interview process involving the four finalists for the position that at least two of them were not particularly familiar with either the strengths or weaknesses of the Champaign Police Department or the Champaign-Urbana community as a whole.
That cannot be said of Cobb. His roots in our community and his familiarity with local law enforcement officials as well as community leaders cannot be questioned. He knows the people, and he knows the problems.
Presumably, he can use his experience as well as his personal and professional credibility to build bridges to the various constituencies that interact with his department.
It's no secret that the Champaign Police Department has had a tough go of it over the past few years. The tragic accidental shooting of Kiwane Carrington Jr. during a police stop remains a source of anger and pain to the entire community. Other, more recent incidents involving interaction between the police and the minority community — no matter who was right or wrong — have only aggravated the strain created by the Carrington shooting.
At the same time, the department has endured serious internal discord as a result of allegations of preferential treatment in the promotion process for command officers.
That kind of inner and outer turmoil is an unfortunate distraction that only makes it harder for officers to do their work on a day-to-day basis.
One of Cobb's top priorities will be to assure members of the community that all citizens are equal in the eyes of the law and that his troops will strive every day to be models of professionalism.
At the same time, Cobb will have to persuade the men and women of his department that he'll back them to the hilt when they are right, that he'll discipline them fairly when they are wrong and that there will be no special treatment for any officer at the expense of another.
There is no question that Cobb will have his hands full. Being the top dog is a wholly different experience than what he's had before. But Cobb has spent nearly 20 years preparing, and we're optimistic that he's up to the job.