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The hollowing out of state government

Tuesday, Apr 23, 2019

* Tribune

The number of state troopers in Illinois has fallen by nearly 20 percent over the past two decades, leaving fewer officers to patrol the roadways, investigate shootings on highways and oversee the concealed carry program.

The decline has been long and steady, with spending cuts, a wave of retirements, new policing responsibilities and the recent state budget impasse all contributing. But the death of three troopers this year when other motorists crashed into them has raised the question: Are there enough officers out there to discourage reckless driving and keep the roads safe?

“This is a gradual deterioration that has occurred in both Democratic and Republican administrations,” said Brendan Kelly, acting director of Illinois State Police. “While that has happened, the responsibilities and duties set forth by the legislature have only grown.”

Now efforts to rebuild the department are underway in the hope of significantly boosting staffing. Gov. J.B. Pritzker has proposed allocating more than $7 million to train two new cadet classes at the state police academy. Agency leaders also are trying to think up creative ideas to entice more applicants, such as producing flashy recruitment videos and reconsidering educational requirements for the job.

Kelly said he is open to a proposal that would do away with a four-year degree requirement for recruits, instead requiring them to obtain an associate degree.

Lots more in this story, so click here to read the rest.

- Posted by Rich Miller        

  1. - Sickandtiref - Tuesday, Apr 23, 19 @ 9:24 am:

    There’s plenty at headquarters. ISP is very top heavy. Put a few of those managers back out on the street where they can help. Lord knows they’re getting the same benefits as the cops on the street

  2. - Anyone Remember - Tuesday, Apr 23, 19 @ 9:26 am:

    Very good article. Minor point - would love to have seen headcount numbers for gaming, CC, FOID, Medicaid Fraud, sworn troopers performing civilian jobs, etc.

  3. - Precinct Captain - Tuesday, Apr 23, 19 @ 9:27 am:

    And yet Republicans still whine and moan even though state government has undergone two decades of cuts to the bone.

  4. - Give Me A Break - Tuesday, Apr 23, 19 @ 9:29 am:

    Sadly, this is pervasive across most of state gvt.

    How many times have you seen a state agency hauled in front of an appropriation committee or audit commission hearing and verbally attacked by lawmakers for failing to meet a mandate or reporting deadline?

    And those same lawmakers slash and burn agency budgets, add more duties to the agency and ignore the agency directors crying for IT upgrades because you can’t put “I funded new computers and IT for state workers” on a walk piece.

    The General Assembly is to blame for much of this.

  5. - don the legend - Tuesday, Apr 23, 19 @ 9:36 am:

    Between years and years of headcount reduction and diverting the pension contributions to artificially keep the income tax rate down Illinois is in quite a pickle.

    Representatives Wehrli, Skillicorn, McSweeney and others say cut, cut, and cut some more. But they do seem to lack specifics.

  6. - City Zen - Tuesday, Apr 23, 19 @ 9:38 am:

    Like the idea of moving to an associate degree. Surprised you needed a four year degree to begin with.

  7. - Barrington - Tuesday, Apr 23, 19 @ 9:39 am:

    Totally agree with Kelly. I think investing in more and better training is far superior to a higher education requirement.

  8. - City Zen - Tuesday, Apr 23, 19 @ 9:40 am:

    ==diverting the pension contributions to artificially keep the income tax rate down Illinois…==

    And pay employee salaries, raises, benefits. I don’t recall any employees turning down raises in exchange for a full pension payment.

  9. - Stones - Tuesday, Apr 23, 19 @ 9:41 am:

    This is the tip of the iceberg as far as the ISP is concerned. Their civilian support units such as the Bureau of Identification as been gutted as well and is severely understaffed and ill-equipped. Road and bridges aren’t the only infrastructure in Illinois that has been neglected.

  10. - illini - Tuesday, Apr 23, 19 @ 9:46 am:

    I have two family members that are ISP - one recently retired and the other working in investigations. Both did their time as the visible presence before moving on to other responsibilities.

    My now retired cousin had a BS degree and several years working in local Law Enforcement before finally being accepted into the Academy - and that was only because the uncorrected eyesight standard was done away with. The other has an MA, but hated the corporate world.

    Much as I respect Brendan Kelly I do not think that lowering the standards for recruits is the answer. There must be other standards, or criteria, that could be considered.

  11. - wordslinger - Tuesday, Apr 23, 19 @ 9:48 am:

    Yet another core state responsibility that has been neglected and allowed to deteriorate.

    Meanwhile, the Auditor General found this month that DCEO doesn’t have a clue beyond superficial press-release boosterism as to what if any positive effect a billion dollars in grants and awards it doled out between 2016 and 2018 may have had.

    That’s what happens when you buy into the snake oil that politicians “create jobs,” rather than insisting that they devote the resources to doing their real jobs.

    Get back to basics, folks.

  12. - Shemp - Tuesday, Apr 23, 19 @ 9:49 am:

    Troopers are very expensive with the post-retirement benefits that kick in early compared to most jobs. The pay & benefits usually far exceeded local police and sheriffs offices and ISP would pick off good local officer and deputies.

    The 4 year degree used to be a popular weed out method when there were 5 or 10 times more applicants than positions. Many locals implemented the same rule. Now, with the profession taking a severe hit to its reputation, recruitment is difficult and retention a real struggle. There’s a new arms race starting in pay and benefits to get and keep officers and it’s going to be costly with the pensions factored in.

  13. - Streator Curmudgeon - Tuesday, Apr 23, 19 @ 10:09 am:

    “When you can drive 300 miles and only see one trooper, that’s a problem,” (Joe Moon, president of the State Police union) said. “People are driving with impunity, and they are driving distracted on top of that.”

    Thanks to rampant cell phone use, Illinois’ highways are DANGEROUS. It’s a simple truth: Police presence discourages law-breaking. Nobody likes getting a ticket, but troopers perform an important function. They keep our roads safer.

    You have to wonder what the real priorities are in Illinois. How much local vote-getting pork could be cut to bring the ISP up to where it should be?

  14. - 2014 story - Tuesday, Apr 23, 19 @ 10:25 am:

    From 2014, “In a House budget…Illinois State Police Director Hiram Grau said the agency needs money to hire more officers. The agency had 2,300 officers in the 1990s, but is now down to 1,800 troopers because there has not been enough money to hire replacements when officers retire. On a recent night in the state police district that includes Cass, Christian, Logan, Mason, Menard, Morgan and Sangamon County, he said there were only two troopers on duty.

  15. - Outsider2 - Tuesday, Apr 23, 19 @ 10:38 am:

    Shemp-the other part of that is that once tier 2 existed, it’s a harder sell to those that have local time. It’s not really any better than what many have. So why would you want to leave and go back through the academy for that?

  16. - Grandson of Man - Tuesday, Apr 23, 19 @ 10:40 am:

    We just experienced the sheer horrors and risks that state troopers face daily. We also experienced the disaster of a budget crisis and failure to grow much economically after significant income tax decreases. Since Republicans are hopped up on austerity and opposition, Democrats will have to step up and put a graduated income tax on the ballot. After all these years and fiscal problems, it’s our best way forward.

  17. - Annonin' - Tuesday, Apr 23, 19 @ 10:59 am:

    Surprised to see this is P1 news….guess that confirms the “thining” of the media. 2 cadet classes probably does not cover retirements. Someone out to ask for a district by district headcounts. GovJunk bellowed about new cadet classes, but boosted patrols in Chicago — his way to fight street crime — the results were lower district headcounts.

  18. - Last Bull Moose - Tuesday, Apr 23, 19 @ 11:11 am:

    Google says that State Troopers make less than Chicago cops. May make sense but seems wrong.

    Police and Courts are key functions of the State. We need to fund and modernize them.

  19. - Pensions - Tuesday, Apr 23, 19 @ 11:12 am:

    Pensions squeeze out other spending priorities.

  20. - DVMAY - Tuesday, Apr 23, 19 @ 11:18 am:

    Also in the Trib, Kristen McQueary complains about the State’s “Out-of-control spending.”

  21. - Anon - Tuesday, Apr 23, 19 @ 11:25 am:

    We have gaming agents. The State Police can stop being involved in gaming and we can free up a load of them and hire more gaming agents.

    ===Kelly said he is open to a proposal that would do away with a four-year degree requirement for recruits===

    I wholeheartedly disagree with getting rid if a degree requirement. Not to sound elitist, but the education component helps maintain a higher quality of recruit which is one of the reasons why the State Police are as well regarded as they are.

    We don’t need to lower the bar so we can open the door to local cops.

    ===I don’t recall any employees turning down raises in exchange for a full pension payment.===

    I’ve not conducted any research, but I’ve heard that in the past AFSCME did have a contract without a cost of living adjustment in exchange for the state picking up the AFSCME employee portion of the pension payment.

  22. - Huh? - Tuesday, Apr 23, 19 @ 12:18 pm:

    “past AFSCME did have a contract without a cost of living adjustment in exchange for the state picking up the AFSCME employee portion of the pension payment.”

    I want to say this occurred in 1991 and was for only part of the contract.

  23. - Mason born - Tuesday, Apr 23, 19 @ 12:31 pm:

    I wonder if instead of dropping the degree requirements they could waive them for veterans. Seems like a pool of candidates who might be interested.

  24. - City Zen - Tuesday, Apr 23, 19 @ 12:37 pm:

    ==AFSCME did have a contract without a cost of living adjustment in exchange for the state picking up the AFSCME employee portion of the pension payment.==

    Not the same thing.

    ==I want to say this occurred in 1991 and was for only part of the contract.==

    Nope, for the entire contract and beyond.

  25. - Car 54 - Tuesday, Apr 23, 19 @ 12:45 pm:

    Troopers are expensive to train, because they’re worth it. I’m not excited about reducing the academic requirements for entry, because I believe a strong higher education background makes for better decision-making and better understanding of how to communicate and relate to people. I want brains over reflexes. I want skills and logic and intellect in dealing with the public and handling crisis situations.

    I’m curious to know of they ever put those new trooper cars into the field; the ones that were paid for with targeted funds but had to sit in a parking lot for a couple years waiting for the authorizations to have their lights and radios, etc. installed? And I want to know if more money and people are being put onto the FOID cards and weapons seizures, the processing of kits and DNA evidence.

    If people say they are “for the blue”, they should support funding for these needs.

  26. - Pappy - Tuesday, Apr 23, 19 @ 12:53 pm:

    I’m still within the age range for being hired by ISP, and considered it during the Blago years, but there was a hiring freeze. Also, back then, I didn’t have a family. Today, circumstances have changed, and ISP’s residency requirement may need some reevaluation. You must be able to accept a position “Anywhere within IL”. I’m sure that this limits the college-educated applicant pool, as many with families must be uprooted for this career. It has become a lifestyle.

  27. - Demoralized - Tuesday, Apr 23, 19 @ 12:58 pm:

    == I don’t recall any employees turning down raises in exchange for a full pension payment.==

    Don’t be dense. They have absolutely no control over the pension payments. Your suggestion otherwise is ignorant.

  28. - Dotnonymous - Tuesday, Apr 23, 19 @ 1:47 pm:

    Playing monopoly or checkers for fun is gaming…if one places a wager on the positive or negative outcome of that game…it’s called gambling…in real English.

  29. - ISP Recruiter - Tuesday, Apr 23, 19 @ 1:52 pm:

    @Mason Born….
    Effective July 1, 2017, Any person who has been honorably discharged who served in a combat mission by proof of hostile fire pay or imminent danger pay during deployment on active duty, …OR… has served 3 years of full active and continuous military duty and received an honorable discharge, meets the collegiate educational requirement of the Department of State Police

  30. - Montana Peak - Tuesday, Apr 23, 19 @ 2:22 pm:

    According to the ISPHF (heritage foundation) website, In 1972, the 50th anniversary, finds the ISP had become a leader in law enforcement across the nation. The deparment had 1,709 sworn officers and 602 civilian employees working across the state.

  31. - illini - Tuesday, Apr 23, 19 @ 3:13 pm:

    @Montana - A lot can happen, and change, in almost 50 years. Unsure of your point other than to remind us of how our ISP has changed over these years.

  32. - Mason born - Tuesday, Apr 23, 19 @ 3:52 pm:

    ISP Recruiter

    Thanks. I looked into it when I mustered out which was quite a few yrs before ‘17. Wish it had been in effect back then would’ve beat DOC.

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