URBANA, Ill. – University of Illinois Police Officer Danya Brolon’s thinking differs quite a bit from the traditional stereotype of cops who just want to put bad guys in jail.
Hers is a perspective that came from a previous job experience, when she spent five years at the Champaign County Jail as a corrections officer.
As a corrections officer, “I got to work with a lot of people,” Brolon said. “A lot of good officers and a lot of community members who made me realize that there’s not much difference sometimes between the people who are behind the bars and the people on the other side of the desk.”
As Brolon met people in jail, she formed relationships and wished she could have done more to keep them from landing there in the first place.
That’s ultimately why she sought to become a police officer. As an officer on the street instead of inside the jail, Brolon wants to have more of a positive influence on community members’ lives and try to find alternatives to jail time.
Brolon accomplished that transition in 2021. After being hired by University Police, she completed her basic training at the University of Illinois Police Training Institute in December. She’s now a couple months into the field training process with University Police.
And she’s bringing that same perspective from inside the jail to her work on the street.
“What I learned from the jail was that there’s only so much you can do to help people in a jail,” Brolon said. “Once they’re in there, you can help try to make their stay more comfortable, but there’s not much you can do outside of that. As a police officer, I’m able to be out in the community more, and I’m able to try to intercept people before they get into that kind of trouble.”
An Indiana native, Brolon is now an 11-year resident of the Champaign-Urbana area. Outside of work, she is a mom (“that takes up a lot of my time,” she says) and dabbles in photography.
She was specifically drawn to the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign campus for work because of her love of learning. She relayed a recent story of waiting for a friend outside the Activities and Recreation Center and looking at a bug.
“We were staring at this bug,” she said. “It was a weird bug, and an entomology major walks by and says, ‘Oh, that’s such and such kind of bug.’ It was like only on a college campus could you have that sort of experience.”
She says working on the Urbana campus offers an opportunity to learn and help others learn at the same time.
“I definitely want to make an impact in the community,” she said. “I don’t just want to be another face in a uniform. I want to be able to connect to people, and I want to be able to make a difference in some kids’ lives. You get an opportunity to make a difference in our students’ lives, and then they go on to all ends of the world and help other people with the experience that you were able to help give them.”