CHAMPAIGN — A 20-year Champaign police officer will shepherd the department while a search is underway for a new police chief.
Champaign City Manager Dorothy David announced Thursday she will appoint Matt Henson to serve as interim police chief effective 5 p.m. Aug. 6, as Anthony Cobb walks out the door after nearly 10 years as chief. Cobb announced his retirement two weeks ago.
“I am humbled and grateful for the opportunity the city manager has entrusted me with, and I look forward to building upon our department’s important work in partnership with all of our officers, residents, neighborhoods and businesses,” said Henson, 50.
Henson said he does not intend to apply for the chief’s position. A nationwide search is planned.
Henson has served as a deputy chief of operational support and professional standards since February. In that job, he has overseen professional standards, internal affairs, the citizen complaint process, the criminal investigations division, the police services unit and fiscal administration.
Just before that, Henson was the lieutenant in charge of the investigations division.
A graduate of Southern Illinois University at Carbondale, Henson began as a police officer in Arcola in 1995, moved to the Charleston Police Department, then to Champaign in 2001, where he progressed through the ranks as a patrol officer, sergeant and lieutenant before being named the lieutenant to supervise the detectives.
“He fully understands the high expectations that our community has for the office of police chief,” David said. “Matt is a person of great integrity who takes his commitment to public service very seriously. He is the right leader to continue to move our department forward during this time of transition.”
Since his promotion to deputy chief, Henson has been an active participant in the Community Coalition and in the police-community listening sessions. He’s also been working with the city’s Neighborhood Services department to address neighborhood specific problems.
In 2018, Cobb gave him a distinguished leadership award for his “commitment to excellence and displaying the effective management and development of his employees.”
He was also Champaign’s officer of the year in 2007 and officer of the year in Charleston in 2000.
Henson said he was grateful to Cobb for his guidance and leadership and will work with his fellow officers and the community “so we can all move forward together.”
“Throughout this transition, I am committed to ensuring we maintain a high level of service and that our decisions are informed by community input,” he said. “I am also committed to promoting officer well-being and ensuring our talented officers are set up for success.”