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COVID-19 response: What you need to know
UIPD staff member smiling in front of police building.

Individuality.

What makes us like you is what sets us apart.

Every law enforcement agency is different. The University of Illinois Police Department is staffed by people who genuinely care about your safety, and we may all have more in common than we think.

Our staffers are community members just like you, and their interests, their life experiences and the things that drive them are what make the University of Illinois Police Department truly unique. When you learn more about the people of UIPD, then the picture of who we are as an organization becomes clearer.

 

 

‘Part of the change’

Broadnax staff photoOfficer Nina Broadnax has been a police officer at the University of Illinois Police Department since 2019.

Her explanation of why she got into policing is simple: She wanted to make a difference.

“I believe to see change, you have to be a part of the solution,” Broadnax said. “I want to be a part of the change. I want to be able to leave a lasting positive perspective of not only myself but those that I work with. It only takes one person to make a difference.”

As a patrol officer, Broadnax spends time in various areas of campus – her visible presence helps to deter crime, and she responds to emergencies and non-emergency calls in the campus area. But it’s not just all responding to calls, she says.

“I go out of my way to speak to our students and surrounding community, without having a call for service,” she said.

In her free time, she says she likes to paint, sing, crochet and, occasionally, roller skate.

“I’m a bit of a goofball, a little weird, enjoy having fun and love to help in any way I can,” Broadnax said. “If you see me don’t hesitate to say, ‘Hey!’”

Perfect fit for a social worker

Cambron staff photoMegan Cambron started at UIPD in 2021 as the department’s first ever crisis outreach coordinator. As a licensed clinical social worker on the Response, Evaluation and Crisis Help (REACH) team, she provides clinical care and decision-making in the field during crisis calls.

She said she feels lucky to have been able to use her education to help people in different areas as she previously worked with children and families, with veterans, and now with the campus community through UIPD.

“When I was younger, I didn’t understand what social work truly was,” Cambron said. “But as I matured and settled on a career, I knew I wanted to be able to care for people, to walk beside someone who was hurting, and to provide connection and hope. Social work seemed to be a perfect fit.”

She says her family life is extremely important, but she also likes to take care of herself, too.

“I love to read, listen to music, go to concerts, cook, bake, and start home improvement projects that my husband will inevitably have to finish,” Cambron said. “I probably have three home projects in progress at any given time.”

A new way to engage

Carter staff photoSgt. James Carter has been with the University of Illinois Police Department for 10 years and has worked on patrol, as a detective and now supervises the department’s Community Outreach and Support Team.

C.O.A.S.T. is a new department effort as of 2020 to enhance outreach and programming, and also to support students, faculty and staff who are experiencing mental health crises.

“I am responsible for facilitating relationship building and establishing new lines of communication with the campus community and the greater community,” Carter said. “I am proud of the fact that I have this opportunity to engage with our community in this new capacity.”

Sgt. Carter got into policing because he has always had a passion for helping people and to protect people from being hurt. In his free time, he says he loves to hang out in his cabin and is learning to play bass guitar.

The voice on the other end

Costa staff photoTelecommunicator Kenny Costa has been serving the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign community since April 2011, most of that time as a telecommunicator at UIPD.

“I am one of the nine telecommunicators you will hear answer the phone when you call into our police department main phone line and the one of the voices you will hear during the overnight hours,” Costa said. “I answer phones, enter paperwork, assist officers with requests, and listen to radio traffic and respond when needed.”

Telecommunicators also work with the department’s security camera network, and Costa played a key role in the 2017 investigation into the kidnapping of a U. of I. visiting scholar when he discovered crucial video footage that became a turning point in the case. He was one of three UIPD staffers who were awarded the Chancellor’s Medallion for their work in that incident.

“I have always wanted to help people and felt law enforcement and dispatching was a perfect job for me,” Costa said. “I love what I do here at the University of Illinois Police Department and work with some great people who share the same passion that I have for my job.”

Costa said he also likes to brag about his daughter who recently made the Dean’s List at her college and his son who recently joined the Army.

Breaking the mold

Elston staff photoDetective Chris Elston has been serving the campus community with UIPD since 2012. He spent most of that time on patrol before being assigned to a task force where he investigates a special category of crimes.

“I investigate bias incidents, hate crimes, and other instances that could have a nexus to federal violations, such as bomb threats, hate groups, and threats directed towards the university,” Elston said. “A lot of these incidents involve victims who are targeted because of who they are or what they believe in.”

Even when he cannot solve a case because of a lack of evidence or witnesses, he says he takes pride in being able to offer resources to victims.

“I’ve really worked hard to develop relationships with student groups, and several of them will reach out to me directly with information or concerns,” he said.

Elston enlisted in the U.S. Navy after a few years of college (he still serves in the Navy Reserve) before finding a place at UIPD. He says he is excited for UIPD’s new community programming and sees it as an opportunity for the department “to show how we break the mold and show we are truly a progressive and professional department.”

A fitness buff

Funkhouser-Walker staff photoAlisha Funkhouser-Walker started at UIPD in March 2013, first serving the campus community as a telecommunicator and now as the department’s Records Supervisor.

She provides a variety of professional, technical and managerial support to the department, including the day-to-day administration of the department’s records. She also manages Freedom of Information Act requests, expungements, subpoenas, citations, and litigation.

Law enforcement records are voluminous, and proper management is critical to making sure that public safety-related activities can proceed without interruption and that investigations and legal processes are without error.

Away from work, she spends time with her husband and two wonderful sons, and she says her hobbies range from painting to fitness.

“I am actually a certified POUND fitness instructor,” Funkhouser-Walker said. “POUND is a full-body workout that uses drumsticks. It’s definitely one of my favorite pastimes. I currently teach two to three POUND classes a week.”

Understanding each other

Halpin staff photoPatrol Officer Elma Halpin has worked full-time for UIPD since 2013 – and for more than two years before that as a Student Patrol officer while she was an undergrad at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign.

“I got into this line of work for the same reason most people did – because I wanted to help people,” Halpin said. “No one ever calls 911 because they are having a great day and nothing is upsetting them. We sometimes meet people on their worst day or when they are going through a rough time.”

As a bilingual officer, Halpin uses her language skills on campus and in the greater community to help people understand each other.

“I speak Spanish fluently and can speak with people involved, translate to other officers on scene dealing with the situation, and then explain further in Spanish to those who do not understand or speak English,” she said. “This is something I am proud of since it means I can help even more people, even those not directly affiliated with the University.”

Halpin said she loves sports and being active. She used to play soccer, and she traveled to France in 2019 to watch the U.S. Women’s National Team win the World Cup.

‘Always loved the university’

Kavanaugh staff photoPolice Telecommunications Supervisor Ed Kavanaugh has been serving the campus community since 2003.

Kavanaugh manages the day-to-day operations of the dispatch area of the University of Illinois Police Department. The telecommunicators he supervises are the first people to answer the phone when someone calls the police department, or the first face community members see when they walk in.

The telecommunications function is a 24/7 operation and serves as the after-hours contacts for numerous campus units. Kavanaugh also supervises the department’s records division.

“I have always loved the University of Illinois and wanted to be a part of it,” Kavanaugh said. “What better way than helping members of this community.”

When he’s away from work, Kavanaugh said he enjoys traveling, golf, sports and spending time with friends. He has two grown children, one of whom lives in Dallas and the other in Rantoul.

‘Deep ties here’

Krickovich staff photoOfficer Kyle Krickovich has been with UIPD since 2015 – serving his first three years as a telecommunicator before transitioning to being a policer officer.

He said he got into public safety work to make a difference.

“I wanted to serve my community in a meaningful way,” Krickovich said. “I’m from this area and I went to school at Illinois, so I have deep ties here and a great desire to keep our community safe.”

As a patrol officer, Officer Krickovich’s primary responsibilities are patrolling the campus area and responding to emergencies and other calls for service.

“Every work day is different depending on the calls I receive which makes every day new and exciting,” he said.

Behind the scenes, Krickovich is a recruiter for UIPD and helps to attract the best police candidates to the department while developing a professional and diverse workforce – and he encourages anyone interested to visit the department’s employment page to learn more about working for UIPD.

Krickovich is a member of the Illini Inn Mug Club — No. 89224.

The family business

Landers staff photo

Lieutenant Aaron Landers started at UIPD in September 1997 and has served the campus community in a number of roles, like on patrol and as the commander of the East Central Illinois Bomb Squad, a highly specialized group. There is a very small number of certified bomb techs in the country.

Most recently, though, he was put in charge of the department’s Community Outreach and Support Team, which is responsible for department programming, crime prevention education and mental health support.

Lt. Landers’ father and great grandfather were police officers.

“It has been the only thing I ever wanted to do,” he said. “There is a strong family tradition to do this work. Some people follow their families into things like business or farming – our family members are cops.”

When he’s not on duty, Lt. Landers is an amateur woodworker.

“My grandfather worked for a school system making cabinets and so the smell and feel of woodworking reminds me of my childhood,” he said. “I am pretty proud of some of the furniture I have made. I have had no formal instruction and still have all my fingers and toes, so I have that going for me.”

The outdoor lover

Mecum staff photoKristy Mecum has served the campus community as a telecommunicator for the University of Illinois Police Department since 2005.

She answers phone calls to the police department, monitors radio traffic, handles after-hours calls for various university departments, monitors fire and building alarms and maintain reports and other paperwork. Mecum in particular rewrote and organized the telecommunications training manual to help develop her coworkers and ensure efficient processes.

“We are a big catch all,” Mecum said. “We also support the city police departments when asked to do so.”

Her career in telecommunications started as a part-time job to get her through college, but it came to be what she loved.

“I started out as extra help/part time,” Mecum said. “This was going to be a part time job to get me through college. I was offered the opportunity to go full time in 2008 and did. I love this field and have never wanted to leave.”

In her free time, she loves the outdoors – travel, hiking, golfing, rafting, reading, working out and spending time with friends. She has earned two degrees while working for UIPD – one in science and the other in veterinary technology.

‘Human chew toy’

Milinkovic staff photoOfficer Pete Milinkovic found law enforcement later in his life after spending 13 years in the U.S. Marine Corps. He said he was looking to continue serving in a local capacity and for a sense of camaraderie. He found that at UIPD in 2016.

Now he works as a patrol officer responding to emergencies and calls for service on campus and the surrounding community. Milinkovic is a University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign alumnus and native of Rockford, Illinois. He now lives in Champaign with his family. His wife is a schoolteacher (“her job is tougher than mine!” he says), and they have a teenage daughter and twin boys.

“We are fully dedicated to the community and care about it being a safe place for people from all walks of life to flourish in,” Milinkovic said. “I treat every call for service like it is a member of my family who requires aid.”

One of his more unique duties is helping to train the UIPD K9s by acting as a decoy – those are the folks who put on the big puffy bite suits and let the dogs chase them down.

“You basically are a human chew toy for our K9s to train on,” he said. “Good times!”

UIPD ‘felt different’

Payan staff photoJennifer Payan has served the campus community for nearly 30 years, working for the last eight years as the Clery Compliance Coordinator. That puts her in charge of the campus’s efforts to meet federal regulations in making sure that the campus community is aware of any public safety issues.

“I am proud of the work I do in helping to keep our community safe and informed,” Payan said.

She felt that UIPD was going to be a good fit going back to her days in the criminal justice program at Parkland College.

“When I did a ride-along with U. of I. Police, it felt different from the others,” she said. “There was intentional relationship building and a true sense of community in addition to the traditional roles an officer has in enforcing the laws.”

Payan is a Texan by birth because her father was in the Army, but has otherwise lived in Champaign-Urbana her whole life. Outside of work, she enjoys spending time with her family – she has five boys, three daughters-in-law, two grandkids and her siblings in the area.

“Every Sunday after church, we all still go to my Mom and Dad’s for lunch, and that’s a blessing I will always cherish,” Payan said.

Solving puzzles

Plotner staff photo

IT Tech Associate Corey Plotner joined UIPD in 2018. Although he works somewhat behind the scenes, he helps to keep all the technology running smoothly so that UIPD officers can use those tools to continue keeping the community safe.

“Whether that be in the building, or the cars, I try to make the officers jobs as easy as I can by providing them with the support they need,” Plotner said.

He said he got into the information technology field because it would keep him on his toes.

“I have always loved puzzling challenges,” Plotner said. “To me, that is what IT is. It is an ever-changing puzzle. Nothing ever stays the same and it always keeps me on my toes.”

Outside of work, Plotner is an avid runner. He runs almost every day and coaches cross country at a local school. He is also working toward his IHSA certification so he can officiate track meets.

“Just know that like most everyone else here at the police department, I am very approachable and easy going,” Plotner said. “I can talk to anyone and really value getting to know a lot of people.”

115 cakes

Powell staff photoDementro “Debo” Powell has been a fixture in the university community for quite some time but started in his new role as Director of Community Development and Engagement at UIPD in February 2021.

Powell’s responsibilities include creating and establishing trust between community members and the police department.

“It is a natural fit for me and my philosophy on life and how I view the world,” Powell said. “I am passionate about creating unity, and I have years of experience creating programs that engages community of all sorts from Drug and Alcohol to Social Justice and Diversity, so this fits like a hand in glove.”

Powell is a movie buff (particularly horror films), loves Halloween and is a singer and a baker. He baked 115 cakes during the summer of 2020 to distribute to community members, friends and first responders to bring some cheer during the pandemic.

In addition to his full-time job at UIPD, he is a full-time doctoral student in the Education Policy, Organization and Leadership program.

A math mind

Snow staff photoDetective Ryan Snow has worked with UIPD for nine years, and his most recent assignment is to the county’s Street Crimes Task Force where he and officers from several area departments collaborate to prevent gun violence and crimes associated with gun violence.

He worked as a student security officer in college – much like the services the U. of I. Student Patrol provides. Det. Snow went on ride-alongs with his brother, also a police officer, and decided that’s what we wanted to do.

“Law enforcement is a tough job and one that holds some real challenges,” Det. Snow said. “There are things that happen in this world that make me very sad, both as a law enforcement officer, and as a human being. My hope is that time will provide healing and one day we won’t see the issues that are so prevalent today.”

Outside of work, he spends every moment that he can with his kids. He also has a hobby he thinks he’ll be teased for admitting: “I really enjoy budgeting and planning for the future. My focus in college was math so I tend to love things that involve numbers.”

‘Not CSI’

VIsel staff photoBeth Visel started as a police officer at UIPD in 2011 – she’s now one of its first behavioral health detectives, working with a licensed clinical social worker to respond to and follow up on mental health crisis calls.

Her career in law enforcement started when she got hooked on CSI and found herself attending Parkland College to pursue it.

“During one of the first classes, the instructor said law enforcement is not CSI and, if anyone was there for that, then they might as well leave,” Visel said. “I stayed and found that I quite enjoyed the classes and learning about law enforcement.”

Visel is now one of three UIPD officers with a master’s degree in Social Work from the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign.

Aside from the innovative mental health initiative at UIPD, she has also been involved since 2013 in the Law Enforcement Torch Run, which raises money and awareness for Special Olympics athletes.

“I have had the honor to meet many athletes and their families to the point where many are an extension of my own family,” Visel said. “Being part of this incredible movement is humbling, and I am constantly reminded by the athletes to persevere despite all odds.”

Dental hygiene to criminal justice

Vogelsang staff photoStephanie Vogelsang has been with UIPD since 2009 and started in dispatch and then emergency management before moving to a new position as the Protection of Minors Specialist, where she now works to ensure the safety and protection of minors participating in university-sponsored activities and programs.

“Shortly after I was hired as the Protection of Minors Specialist for Urbana-Champaign campus, I began visiting the activities and programs sponsored by the university,” Vogelsang said. “My goal is to see how we can make our activities and programs safer, better and more captivating for our future leaders.”

She did not necessarily start on the public safety track, but it has become what she loves as her career has evolved.

“My original major in college was dental hygiene, but I later changed to criminal justice because I did not enjoy biology,” she said.

Vogelsang and her husband, Tyler, were both born and raised in Champaign County and are now raising their two children here. They enjoy vacationing and are working on making their way around the country to visit every National League baseball park – spring training parks included.

A ‘wide array of emergencies’

Wooten staff photoAssistant Director for Emergency Management Sherry Wooten has been with the University of Illinois Police Department for 28 years (not counting a 3-year break when she moved out of state).

As the person responsible for the university’s emergency preparedness, she’s got a lot on her plate. Her job is to ensure the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign is in compliance with federal and state regulations regarding all things emergency management. That includes Building Emergency Action Plans, the Campus Violence Prevention Plan, the Campus Emergency Operations Plan, Homeland Security Exercises and Evaluation Program and Illini-Alerts.

She said she grew up in a law enforcement family, so her instinct was to gravitate toward what she knew.

“I have been a police and fire dispatcher, correctional officer, police officer and Emergency Medical Technician,” Wooten said. “But I found my real niche in emergency management. Emergency management allows me to use all the skills and knowledge I gained from those disciplines to teach faculty, staff, and students on how to react safely in a wide array of emergencies they may encounter.”

In her free time, Wooten enjoys crafting, gardening and the culinary arts – but spending time with family and friends is what she cherishes the most.

“My two adult sons are my greatest accomplishment,” she said.