21st Century Policing

The Police Department’s vision for advancing 21st century policing is supported by seeking diverse and recurring community input. The Police Department’s 2015 strategic planning process, which sought input from the community through surveys, citizen dialogue and the Champaign County Community Coalition, reinforced the most effective way to build trust and to reduce crime was by fostering strong, collaborative community relationships. Citizen perspectives and partnerships are a key component of the Police Department’s ability to identify problems, implement effective solutions and to assist staff with making informed policy changes to help build community trust and transparency.

As Champaign Police continues to work alongside its public to advance 21st century community policing techniques, we understand many of you have questions. Below are a few we commonly encounter with responses to help you learn more about our Department.

For additional information, please feel free to reference the following reports to the Champaign City Council.

  • The Police Department’s March 6, 2020, report to City Council can be accessed here.
  • The Police Department’ s July 14, 2020, report to City Council can be accessed here.
  • The Police Department’s February 9, 2021, report to City Council can be accessed here.

Frequently Asked Questions

Community engagement is a core principle of Champaign Police to help build and strengthen diverse relationships. The department authorizes one hour of on duty time each month for every employee to conduct community service work with individuals and groups in Champaign. In 2019, Champaign Police completed more than 1,200 hours of community engagement, opening new lines of communication to help learn, listen, and address concerns alongside its public.

The Police Department also remains actively involved in City Government 101, the Community Coalition, neighborhood meetings, STAR Longest Table events, and Risk Watch — a basic safety course for elementary-aged students helping to create a link between police, the classroom, and the child’s home. Additional efforts to increase interactions between Police Department staff and the community have served as productive platforms by sharing information and perspectives. Some of these initiatives include the Youth Police Academy and Youth Police Explorer Post programs which introduces youth to law enforcement, Coffee with a Cop events, Department tours, and open house events.

Community engagement helps promote mutual trust and cooperation with the community, which is essential in developing relationships to address crime. Community policing and strengthening relationships with stakeholders go hand-in-hand, and allows the Department to enhance public safety, but also serves as a foundation for community connectivity between all residents, visitors, and businesses. Importantly, it fosters continued learning and listening by police with the individuals they serve.

In March of 2018, the Champaign Police Department joined with Chiefs from the Illinois Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP) and the Illinois National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) to announce a bridge building agreement, entitled “Shared Principles.” These principles are designed to help build trust between law enforcement and communities of color and offers a framework for how Champaign Police is moving forward to help establish smart, fair, and community-based policies. These principles reaffirm our commitment to rejecting discrimination toward any person, including by race, ethnicity, religion, color, nationality, immigrant status, sexual orientation, gender, disability, or familial status.

To view the complete bridge-building agreement “Shared Principles” please click here. The Illinois NAACP chapter and the Illinois Association of Chiefs of Police are credited for leading this agreement.

Yes. Every police officer must pass a thorough and extensive background investigation prior to receiving an official offer of employment. Many individuals who are screened for employment with Champaign Police do not pass this rigorous background investigation and are removed from the selection process.

Before arriving at a background investigation, applicants must first pass a written exam, complete an initial oral board interview, and then pass the Chief’s Panel interview. Chief of Police Anthony Cobb leads the interview with members of his command staff, and they are looking for public servants committed to treating each individual they encounter with unconditional respect. If a candidate is identified by the Chiefs Panel to proceed to the next step, a comprehensive background investigation is then conducted. Elements of this process can consist of the following:
• Fingerprint submission to the Illinois State Police Bureau of Identification
• Professional reference and social reference inquiries
• Employment verifications
• Property management rental verifications
• A review of applicant’s credit report
• Receipt and review of certified high school and college transcripts
• Circuit Clerk/Criminal and traffic record checks for all counties of residence
• Police reports in which the applicant is listed
• Calls for police services at current or former residences
• Information from other law enforcement agencies the applicant previously applied to
• Neighborhood canvass
• Spouse/partner interview
• Records management checks
• Proof of valid driver’s license check

Yes. Truthfulness in communication to transmit clear and accurate information is a standard for the Champaign Police Department, which includes providing a badge number and officer name unless the performance of duty requires otherwise.

Champaign Police Department Rule 3, Section C (Providing Name and Badge Number), states: “Employees shall provide their name or badge number in a prompt and respectful manner when requested by any person when the employee is on duty or while acting in an authorized police capacity, except when the withholding of such information is necessary to the performance of police duties.”

The Champaign Police Department understands transparency is an important step in the process of building trust between police and residents. Champaign Police introduced the use of body-worn cameras in the spring of 2017 to aid in capturing audio and video recordings of daily police-citizen interactions. A body camera was purchased for every sworn officer within the Police Department. Uniformed officers wear body cameras as part of their daily uniform and it is turned on when the officer is responding to calls for service or engaged in any law enforcement-related encounter.

Officers are not permitted to discharge a firearm at or from a moving vehicle unless there exists an imminent or immediate threat of great bodily harm offered by the driver or occupants of the vehicle to the officer or others, or where the escape of an offender(s) otherwise indicates that he/they will endanger human life or inflict great bodily harm  unless arrested without delay. This may include the offender’s use of a vehicle as a deadly weapon NOT solely as means of escape.

This can be found in the Use of Force Policy (1.3) under section 1.3.2 “Use of Deadly Force.”

Passed in 2015, Illinois state law provides that a peace officer shall not apply a chokehold, or any lesser contact with the throat or neck area of another, in the performance of his or her duties unless faced with a situation in which the use of deadly force is justified. In accordance with state statute, Champaign Police Officers do not use chokeholds – nor have they ever been taught or recommended to, even prior to it becoming state law.

On July 1, 2020, an update was made to our Use of Force policy to clearly reflect state law and our existing practice of prohibiting chokeholds or strangleholds. The revised Use of Force policy can be found here. Specifically, section 1.3.5 to reference chokeholds.

Champaign Police Officers always attempt to resolve citizen encounters through the least force possible, regardless of the call for service they are attending to. Any use of force must be in conformance with both the law, and Champaign Police Department’s Use of Force Policy which has been provided for you below. Officers are trained to de-escalate their level of force as the suspect/offender de-escalates their level of resistance or threat, or as circumstances otherwise warrant. The use of force continuum, in order of escalation, is first verbal persuasion, followed by non-deadly force, and then deadly force only as a last resort.

Policy 1.3, “Use of Force”

The Department closely monitors and analyzes each and every incident where force is used by an officer, and Champaign Police collaborates with residents to help review use of force through a Use of Force Review Committee. All incidents involving force by members of the Department go through a supervisory review beginning with the officer’s sergeant, lieutenant, and deputy chief. The Use of Force Review Committee, which includes citizen members, began reviewing use of force incidents in 2018 and meets monthly to review each incident where force was used by an officer, including the review of police records and video. After each incident review, the committee determines if the force was reasonable and consistent with Department policy. The Chief of Police then reviews and any necessary corrective action is taken, and training and tactical considerations are identified and distributed during the patrol briefings so training points and other feedback can be relayed back to the officers. Use of Force Review Committee Reports along with additional information can be found on the Department’s website here.

*Please respect our delay uploading recent Use of Force reports due to challenges of the committee meeting during the COVID-19 pandemic.

De-escalation, especially verbal de-escalation, is a fundamental police tactic for Champaign Police. Training that involves de-escalation is provided by the Department and the Mobile Training Unit. Officers attend de-escalation training which is conducted locally by Dr. Michael Schlosser, Director of the University of Illinois Police Training Institute, to help learn how to resolve matters through techniques such as communication so they can defuse potentially dangerous situations.

In partnership with our residents. The Citizen Review Subcommittee of the Human Relations Commission participates in an unbiased investigation and review of citizen complaints made against Champaign Police. The Subcommittee helps promote public confidence in the professionalism and accountability of the Champaign Police Department and also advises on policy recommendations and public outreach to help improve community-police relations.

More information on the Citizen Review Subcommittee can be found here.

Yes. Previous policy required Police Department employees to stop and report illegal actions, such as excessive use of force. On July 1, 2020,  new revisions to the Use of Force policy now incorporate a formal expectation to intervene, stop, and report any use of excessive force. Interventions are then reported to an appropriate supervisor immediately. A successful intervention does not negate a duty to report. Supervisors will fulfill the obligations in section 1.3.8 of the Use of Force policy to ensure a proper response and follow-up investigation is initiated in a prompt, efficient manner.

Employee accountability is necessary in any workplace, most especially in law enforcement. Champaign Police Department Rule 1, Section E (Reporting Another Employee’s Violations), states: “Employees shall promptly report another employee’s violation of law, order, or directive. To this end, all such violations shall be reported in writing to the reporting employee’s most immediate superior in the Department. The superior receiving the report shall in turn promptly report the violation through the chain of command or supervisory control until the report has reached the Chief. Any violation on the part of the Chief of Police shall be reported by the employee to the City Manager.”

Champaign Police is always seeking ways to improve, develop professionally, and to remain consistent with policing best practices. In 2019, Champaign Police completed more than 21,000 hours of department training. All Champaign Police Officers are required to attend classes related to cultural competency, civil rights, human rights, constitutional and proper use of authority, and procedural justice. Dozens of officers are trained in crisis intervention, and the department also has officers specifically trained in mental health awareness. There are additional training standards that our specialized units’ officers must meet, and during each budget cycle we allow each internal department to identify training and development opportunities which they can request to attend throughout the year.

Policy 33.1, “Training Administration”

By listening, alongside you. We are always evaluating our policies to make sure they reflect our community values. Our Department is committed to enforcing the law courteously and appropriately for everyone. We understand the challenge right now involving police-community relations, but we embrace the opportunity to become better and to take the next step in advancing 21st century community policing methods.

Community partnerships will continue to lead our path forward. Our attendance at the Champaign County Community Coalition will never cease, as well as engaging with our neighborhood groups during meetings. Just as we always have, we will provide public safety awareness and education to our community, especially in areas that are disproportionally affected by crime to help improve our outreach and assistance while interacting with residents, visitors, and businesses.

The law is to be enforced with the people, not on them. The promotion and protection of public safety is accomplished through unconditional respect and protecting the rights of all. We look forward to working alongside you more, to listen, to learn, and then make sure we are following our promise of providing the highest levels of public safety services that you require of us.