SPECIAL REPORT: Peoria Police Chief Eric Echevarria to focus on building police-community relationship to improve safety

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PEORIA, Ill. (WMBD) – Monday, Eric Echevarria began his role as Chief of the Peoria Police Department. Echevarria’s arrival comes as the city faces challenges with gun violence.

After former Peoria Police Chief Loren Marion retired in January, the search began for Peoria’s next top cop.

“The ideal candidate for us was someone that was going to be focused on community policing, [and] someone that would be focused on trying to rebuild community trust in our police department,” said Patrick Urich, Peoria City Manager.

After extensive interviews involving city officials and community leaders, Urich said the search committee found what they were looking for in former Elgin Police Commander Eric Echevarria.

“We were really excited about his enthusiasm for the position. He really did his homework, [and] talked to a lot of people in the community,” Urich said.

“Sometimes you need someone from the outside whose from a similar situation that can bring a new perspective,” said Marvin Hightower, Peoria NAACP president.

Echevarria has more than 22 years of law enforcement experience. He said Peoria allows him to take what he learned throughout his career and put that knowledge to use as a leader in the community.

“Peoria’s in a position right now that’s looking for change, and it’s primed for it,” Echevarria said.

Echevarria comes to the city at a time when there are problems to address locally.

“Gun violence [is] number one. That’s the issue that is really gripping large segments of our community,” Urich said.

There are also broader issues that are being seen on a national scale impacting Peoria.

“The police and community relationship must be bridged. It’s a gap that’s been held far too long,” Hightower said.

In terms of bettering community-police relationships, Echevarria said building trust is crucial. A main goal for the new chief is to be out in the community learning what people need.

“It’s going out into the neighborhoods, going out into communities, talking with these neighbors because they know what’s going on,” Echevarria said.

While officers are tasked with responding and investigating crimes, in order to reduce gun violence within the city, Echevarria admits the police department can’t do it alone.

He said partnerships and collaboration with key community stakeholders will help.

“How do we start providing jobs, and getting people in schools, and looking for these other outlets for people instead of being out on the street?” Echevarria asked.

As his role as chief begins, Echevarria said his officers will do their part to make Peoria a better community for all, and he asks residents to be willing to do the same.

“We want to move forward and I want to take those first steps to move forward and I hope you take the other step to meet me halfway there and let’s work together,” Echevarria said.

Echevarria was sworn-in as chief on Friday, July 30.

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