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Forum Gathers Input for New Champaign Police Chief

Community leaders and activists have started putting together a list of qualities they want in a new Champaign police chief.

Many of the ideas have already been discussed, but some of the 35 who attended a forum put together by Champaign's Community and Police Partnership (CCAPP) Monday night say they're on the same page. Words like public trust, communication, and integrity were repeated throughout the 1-hour event. City leaders and activists spent most of last night's forum in those small groups answering two questions: What are the top 5 challenges facing Champaign's next police chief, and what four skills should that person possess?

Reverend Jerome Chambers, a former Champaign County NAACP president, says he wants someone who has the people skills to generate a dialogue with the community.

"Be as transparent with them as possible, yet - in leading, have the kind of skill set that says: 'I hear you, because you are important. And how we're going to approach this is not to be stereotypical," said Chambers.

Craig Williams says the next chief shouldn't shy away from changing the ranks within the department.

"If somebody's not doing their job, or if you get so many complaints on an officer, don't be afraid to remove that officer of discipline that officer," he said. "In any organization, discipline is very necessary."

City council member Will Kyles says it's important the city set the new chief up for success, recognizing that the person won't be a savior when he first or she first takes office.

Top challenges for the successor to retiring Chief R.T. Finney were also identified. They include dealing with the increase in youth violence (ages 14-25), further healing in the wake of the 2009 police shooting of teen Kiwane Carrington, and social networking.

The recommendations of the panels will be passed on to a search committee for new chief, as well as the city manager's office. Finney will step down on January 20th.