Several months after addressing increasing gun violence in a community update, a new report on hiring reveals the Champaign police force is understaffed.
The Champaign police department currently has about two dozen unfilled positions, and the report proposed changing much of the hiring process. The city’s police force consists of 125 sworn officers but currently only 104 officers are on patrol.
The report was released about one month before Champaign Police Chief Anthony Cobb is set to leave his job.
According to the Champaign police department records office, the city has had eight homicides in 2021 as of July 27. In an April press release in which the city gave a comprehensive update on gun violence, the city had not had a homicide in 2021.
Urbana Police Chief Bryant Seraphin confirmed a smaller hiring shortage than the Champaign forces. Seraphin said the city has 59 positions in the police department, and 57 are filled. One person is in the hiring process to be in the police force as of mid-July.
The Urbana City Council voted to reduce the police budget by 2% last year, about the equivalent of one officer.
Assistant Police Chief of Administration Barb Robbins of the University of Illinois Police Department said the department has one opening, but three candidates are in the running for that position. She added that UIPD’s hiring process is more direct than Champaign’s.
Robbins is in charge of hiring at UIPD and said her department controls the hiring process while Champaign works with the city’s human resources office in hiring police officers.
The Champaign police department’s hiring shortages come as gun violence continues to increase in the community.
Gun violence has increased in the Champaign-Urbana area over the past few years. City officials have instituted some programs to try to quell the violence, as well as numerous community organizations.
The city of Champaign had 52 shooting incidents in 2021 as of the April press release, nearly double the 28 shooting incidents the city reported in the same time frame in 2020. The press release noted some common things in gun violence incidents in the community:
– They are largely unpredictable and spurred by an isolated disagreement, often beginning on social media.
– Shooting scenes now commonly involve a high number of rounds of ammunition, with more than 20, 30 or even 50 spent shell casings collected at some incidents.
– An increase in incidents that involve multiple shooters, multiple weapons, and on occasion high-powered rifle rounds capable of piercing housing structures and vehicles.
– Drug and alcohol consumption, along with large, late-night group gatherings have led to violence.
– A lack of cooperation from victims and potential witnesses at shooting scenes.