Pubdate: Sun, 10 Jul 2011
Source: News-Gazette, The (Champaign, IL)
Copyright: 2011 The News-Gazette
Author: Mary Schenk


CHAMPAIGN - Champaign Police Chief R.T. Finney was installed recently
as the president of the 1,200-member Illinois Association of Chiefs of
Police, the first Champaign police chief to hold that post in the
organization's 70-year history.

Former Rantoul police chief Eldon Quick was the only other Champaign
County law enforcement officer to hold the post. He was president in

Finney has been at the helm of the city's police force since November
2003. Before that he was police chief in Carbondale for four years and
before that, served 17 years on the Quincy police department.

As Champaign's chief law enforcement officer, Finney directs a force
of 156 people, 121 of whom are sworn, that protects 81,055 citizens
and 17 square miles on an annual budget of $15 million.

Finney talked with The News-Gazette about his new duties.

What is the purpose of the ILACP?

The association is to help the professional enhancement of Illinois
police chiefs. They do a number of programs: accreditation,
certification, community policing, conferences that allow us to get
education hours each year. Obviously, networking is very important,
knowing the best practices in use. There are about 1,200 law
enforcement executives. Participation is voluntary.

How long have you been involved and why have you found it

I've been involved since 1997. I would have been in Quincy then and
shortly after went to Carbondale. If you're going to be a chief,
belonging is very important. That's how you make connections and get
professional certifications. If you're leaving, it's the best
opportunity to find out how other cities work. We also work with the
Legislature to formulate and help with Senate and House bills
regarding law enforcement.

What are the biggest hot button legislative issues for the

Concealed carry is probably the biggest, medical marijuana is a big
one, and basic funding, whether we get cut or increased. We also
support a lot of other organizations like mental health and
after-school programs because cutting their funding causes us more
work on the street.

Illinois is the only state in the country that does not have
legislation allowing citizens to carry some type of concealed
firearms. The police chiefs now favor it. What changed the
organization's thinking?

Fifteen years ago, there wasn't a majority supporting it. The
association's stance is support with stipulations. We had the
opportunity to help write the qualifications and the regulations. I
think (it will eventually pass). The chiefs are not together on all
issues either.

What is your personal opinion about concealed carry?

My personal stance is the same (as the association's). However, I
would have preferred more training built in. My opinion has changed
over the years because of the example of other states. A lot of things
we feared did not happen. We hope for a lot of education and regulation.

What is the organization's stance on medical marijuana?

We're pretty much overwhelmingly opposed. It's going to cause a lot of
law enforcement issues. The federal government still considers it
illegal and this is a drug that is legislated rather than
FDA-approved. The enforcement aspect of it is going to be very difficult.

What kind of time commitment will your new role as president of the
ILACP require?

There are a lot of weekend meetings, quarterly meetings. We do a lot
of conference calls and work after hours. There is a staff in
Springfield with an executive director. Certainly, it's additional
work. I probably spend eight to 10 more hours a week on association

Will that have an effect on the local department?

It's fairly efficient. The advantage of being the president is you get
to bring the meetings here. The one we just had was at the I-Hotel.
That was the first conference in Champaign. We had a little over 100
people. My wife did a program for the wives in connection with the
visitors bureau.

Of what benefit is your presidency to the citizens of

It gives a Champaign influence to state issues concerning police
chiefs, what types of issues we might support or not.

The association has a mentoring program for new chiefs. Have you been
involved in that?

When I went to Carbondale, I went through the new chiefs trainings.
They talk about the different types of governments like home rule or a
strong city manager. They also talk about the pitfalls, that you've
now transitioned to being an at-will employee.

You've been a hands-on chief, not afraid to be out in the community
and on patrol. Given your direct involvement in the incident that
resulted in the death of 15-year-old Kiwane Carrington in October
2009, would you advise a younger, less experienced chief to be so hands-on?

Obviously, that particular incident was just one of thousands I've
been involved with. If you are just in the office, you are not going
to get a good feel for how your people are trained or will respond.
It's like owning a restaurant and never tasting your food. You have to
get out there occasionally and find out what's going on and see and
hear the needs of your line officers. Like anything, it has to be in

This post will be a powerful addition to your resume. Is your plan to
retire from the Champaign police department?

That's my plan. I'm eligible for retirement now. I'm 51. My kids are
18, 23 and 25 and I have a granddaughter. They live in Champaign. I'm
not using this as preparation for the next position.

Given the time commitment, would you say this post is a form of
"paying it forward?"

You have to give back to your organization. I reaped a lot of rewards
from it and got my first chief job from it. I'm humbled by the fact
that I represent a lot of good chiefs. It's an administrative role.
You have to have executive committees. Thankfully, you go through four
years before you get to the presidency. The conference is like
planning a wedding with a bunch of grumpy brides with egos.
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