Opinions Editor

Jim Dey is a staff writer for The News-Gazette. His email is jdey@news-gazette.com.

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The timing of Anthony Cobb’s resignation as Champaign police chief  may look awkward, but the reason for it appears as clear as it is common.

Like many police officers and firefighters with long careers behind them — Cobb has nearly 30 years in with the Urbana and Champaign departments — he’s due a fat pension based on his annual salary of $183,378. (He just got a pay raise on July 1).

As an added benefit, his generous pension will be free of state income tax. That’s a savings of at least $4,950 a year on a $100,000-a-year pension.

Between that pension and what surely will be a more-than-ample salary in his new job as deputy director with the Illinois Law Enforcement Training and Standards Board, Cobb will be flush.

A spokesman for the Illinois comptroller’s office said the last person in the deputy director’s) post “was paid $123,840.”

Overall, it’s a big raise and an even bigger reduction in stress. So who can blame Cobb for retiring from police work while embarking on a new career in quasi-police work?

It is, as the advertisement says, the biggest no-brainer in the history of earth.

Some may raise their eyebrows over the circumstances of his departure.

The recent fatal shooting of Officer Chris Oberheim, a continuing series of shootings that have killed some and wounded many others and the attrition of officers have left the department under stress during difficult times.

Cobb will be moving to familiar surroundings. He was appointed by Gov. J.B. Pritzker in October 2020 to the training and standards board. Slated to serve on the board until August 2023, he parlayed the appointment into a comfortable post-chief landing spot on the board’s staff.

The state agency’s job is to “promote and maintain a high level of professional standards for law enforcement and correctional officers.”

Cobb is just 51, young enough to have a second career.

There’s a reason there are very few older law officers and firefighters. Retirement rules encourage them to leave at an age when many people are reaching their professional peak.

Cobb’s personal circumstances may be different based on his employment at both the Urbana and Champaign departments.

But Champaign’s human-

resources office reports that members of the Tier 1 pension system, like Cobb, are eligible to retire at age 50 with 20 years of service at 50 percent pay. If they remain on the job, pension pay increases 2.5 percent each year for another 10 years.

Tier 2 members — those hired after Jan. 1, 2011 — are eligible to retire at 55 with

25 years of service.

Legislators changed the pension rules and benefits for new hires to rein in the exploding costs of public pensions. Despite that, Illinois’ five public pension systems and hundreds of municipal police and fire pensions remain under severe financial stress, underfunded to the tune of many, many billions of dollars.

With Cobb set to step down as chief on Aug. 6, it remains to be seen how the city will proceed in his absence. An acting chief could be appointed either from within or outside the department.

R.T. Finney, Cobb’s predecessor in Champaign, retired in 2012 in his early 50s. In retirement, he has worked as an interim chief in departments where the top person vacated the post.

Jim Dey, a member of The News-Gazette staff, can be reached at jdey@news-gazette.com or

217-393-8251.

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