Experienced public servant takes over as interim chief

URBANA – Longtime police officer Matt Myrick will take the reins on Jan. 1 as the interim police chief at the University of Illinois Police Department while a search for a permanent department head will gear up in the coming months.

The department’s interim chief is an experienced public servant who has become intimately familiar with the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign during his 22 years at UIPD. He will take over for Chief Jeff Christensen, who retires at the end of the year concluding a 32-year run at UIPD.

Myrick, who has been the department’s deputy chief since 2016, began his public safety career in 1989 as a security guard at the university. Between 1990 and 1995, he spent time as a 911 dispatcher, Rantoul Police officer and a Vermilion County Sheriff’s Deputy before returning to campus and beginning his tenure at the University of Illinois Police Department.

During his 22 years and counting at UIPD, he has taken on a number of responsibilities including as a detective, a member of the drug unit and as part of the FBI’s Safe Streets Task Force.

When Myrick is not at work, he spends time as the public guardian in Edgar and Vermilion counties, where he is responsible for the personal, legal and financial care of adults who are unable to care for themselves, like seniors and people with developmental disabilities.

“That’s a very humbling experience,” he said, “when you’re taking care of people who can’t take care of themselves and who may have been exploited by their families, or who have no family at all.”

He says that his various professional experiences are what have prepared him for the job as the department’s interim chief.

“I think we’re a compilation of all the things we’ve done and experienced,” Myrick said. “That and the fact that I’m about 25 years older than when I started.”

Myrick’s role during the coming months, he said, will be to prepare the department for its next permanent chief of police. That includes making sure the department budget looks ahead to future needs, hiring police officers to fill vacancies and ensuring that police officers and department supervisors continue working in a cohesive, efficient manner.

“The department runs smoothly already, but we want it running as smooth as possible for the next person to take over,” Myrick said.

But his number one priority, he said, will be to “maintain the professionalism that this department offers to the campus community so we can offer safety and security to students, staff, faculty and all who visit our campus.”

Myrick also spent some time on campus before his law enforcement career began – he reflected on playing drums at Mabel’s (now Brother’s Bar and Grill) in a classic rock cover band called Runaway. Although Mabel’s and Runaway may be long gone, Myrick’s drumming days may not yet be behind him.

“I want to,” get back to it, Myrick said. “If I could do anything, I might be back playing with a band.”