By Craig Hastings
Officer Chris Oberheim rest in peace and may God watch over your family you leave behind. Champagne police officer Chris Oberheim was shot and killed after responding to a call of a domestic disturbance at 3:30 a.m. Wednesday morning. Officer Oberheim was 44 years old and left four children. A second Champaign police officer was also shot and remains in stable condition at Carle Hospital. The male suspect was also shot during the exchange and died at the scene. He was 24 years old. I’ve been doing this for forty-one years and have mourned the deaths of many fallen fellow police officers. This one hits home more so than some because this happened just a short twenty-four miles north of Tuscola. It happened in Champaign. The same Champaign where many of us have visited regularly for decades. The same Champaign we relied on for our entertainment venues, shopping, and any medical needs required in our families lives. But today like so many larger cities Champaign has become poisoned with violence of a kind we never would have expected to infect this beautiful city. I can remember just a short couple of years ago bragging to anyone that “At least we still have Champaign. It’s about as safe a place to live and visit as our own Tuscola.” Not long after making that statement I stopped going to Champaign after dark. Soon after I further restricted my travel after dark to no further than Savoy. Driving into the city after dark is an absolute will not do unless it would be for a medical reason. And recently…reports of shots fired in the daylight hours and robberies in parking lots.
My oldest son is a regular visitor to Champaign and his younger brother is also but not as often. I want them to be safe! Without question I believe the Champaign Police Department is more than up to the task if they were not hamstrung with being ordered to stay politically correct. They can not operate with a thumb on their heads and be told how to police by people that have no clue how to police. If this senseless killing of one of their own isn’t a wakeup call then what is it going to take. The City Administration needs to get out of the way and let this department take the lead in correcting what’s going wrong in specific neighborhoods in the community. Where do they start? Start with ignoring the cities of Chicago, Seattle, Washington DC, New York, Los Angeles extreme leftist and ludicrous demands on police to stop making traffic stops! Again, these are people that have zero knowledge of how policing is done. If left to do my job, I would flood the troubled neighborhoods with patrol cars and we would stop every driver of every vehicle that committed a traffic infraction. Absolutely no tricks, no lies, no skirting of the traffic laws but, lawful and honest and every infraction. This is where the dig begins. Patrol officers are the front line of the enforcement charge. Without good patrol officers taking the lead in a cause of this kind the effort will fail. So much good information comes from patrol traffic stops. You have to have done this job to know what I mean. When it’s safe to do so I would then put officers in numbers on foot patrols stopping and visiting with the residents. The residents want to be safe and they too will offer useful information but they won’t if you don’t ask.
Champaign has too many illegally possessed guns by too many people in the population. It’s the job of the police to discover as many of these guns as they can by every legal means they can. I didn’t say politically correct means; legal means. It can’t be accomplished by remaining politically correct. The police need to go where leads take them no matter what the race or nationality of the people they investigate. Raise your hand if you are sick to death hearing City and County Officials make statements to the press talking about all the meetings they are conducting with the many community leaders and clergymen everytime a tragedy happens! Whatever happens from all of these meetings? Anything? Plans? Any? Action to curtail? Any? Well if any of these plans were carried out they sure as heck are not working very well. I’m not picking on Champaign. This is the beginning of the norm all across America with the exceptions of maybe Florida, Texas, and South Dakota. These states are still letting their police do the policing. I’m into Champaign because they are our next door neighbors. If they can’t get this under control it’s just a matter of time before little Tuscola starts to experience the same wild west behavior right here.
There are four large police entities that border one another in Champaign County. Turn them loose and let them do their job without political interference. It’s a force to be reckoned with for sure. But, I have little faith that all of these political administrations that govern them will stay out of the way and keep their worthless “better ideas” to themselves. Good luck and we’re rooting for all of you Champaign County law enforcement agencies. Let’s not see another one of our own die needlessly.
(The views and opinions expressed in the submitted columns are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the position of The Journal.)