Urbana's new police chief offers his 'dedication to community policing'


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URBANA — In a lot of ways, Urbana police Chief Bryant Seraphin's job interview was 10 months long.

During Monday night's city council meeting, Mayor Diane Marlin made very clear that she's been observing the newly appointed chief since he stepped in to the role in an interim capacity following Sylvia Morgan's retirement in August. During the official vote to make Seraphin the city's top cop, Marlin expressed her confidence in "his ability to handle this position."

"I've observed Bryant Seraphin in many different situations over the past 10 months, some even potentially tense meetings," Marlin said. "He handled all of them with calmness, professionalism and care. He's put together a budget for the department, implemented the use of body cameras by our offices, spent countless hours with community members. At every unexpected challenge, he's handled it extremely well."

By far, what was most impressive for Marlin was Seraphin's work at Urbana's middle and high schools, where he spent "hours meeting with the former school superintendent, and the interim superintendent, and the incoming one too." His dedication to community policing too, Marlin said, earned him the top job.

During his own remarks, Seraphin talked about how consequential it was that he became a police officer in the first place. In 1994, having just graduated from the University of Illinois, he said he was roofing houses for the summer. When Urbana called in the fall to asking if he wanted the job, Seraphin said, "Absolutely."

"I've gone through four chiefs since then," Seraphin said. "Hopefully, I have gathered some styles and pros and cons from all of them, and will continue carrying this department forward. I've gone from working cases, to managing, to supervising at different levels. I'm glad I'll be able to keep my relationship with my officers and detectives, those men and women who work out there every day."

Seraphin said a formative experience for him was working a field training office because "if you can't supervise one person, you can't supervise a team or a shift or a whole department." He said he'll keep that experience close as he heads into his new position.

Urbana's Deputy Chief Robert Fitzgerald, also appointed Monday, said after spending 11 years with the Chicago Police Department, he found a home in Urbana. He said Seraphin was his field training officer back in the day.

"He taught me everything I know," Fitzgerald said. "But even after 20-odd years, we're still learning."

Alderman Dennis Roberts said "it's great to see you guys rise to the rank and positions that you hold now," and praised the two new leaders' willingness to actively interact in the community.

Alderman Eric Jakobsson congratulated the two new chief and his new deputy, and quoted what he said is an often-forgotten statistic that says police officers have lower life expectancies than the average civilian.

"There's a lot of reasons for that, but stress is a big part, and stress-related disease," Jakobsson said. "I wish you guys a stress-free environment and as long a life as possible. I just want to cite that fact because I think a lot of people don't realize the extent of what you contribute, and in a certain sense, what you sacrifice for us."