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.
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