By Jamey Dunn
Budget cuts proposed by Gov. Pat Quinn would close five state police district headquarters throughout the state and could leave many who need a state trooper’s assistance waiting for hours.
Acting Illinois State Police director Jonathon Monken, who started the job one year ago today but has yet to be confirmed by the Senate, laid out the impact of a proposed $32 million budget cut before a Senate budgeting committee this evening.
“[State troopers would] be more fireman than police officers … they would just go from crash to crash or incident to incident.”
The five districts slated for closure are District 14 in Macomb, District 16 in Pecatonica, District 18 in Litchfield, District 19 in Carmi and the Chicago District, which is actually located in Des Plains.
There are currently 22 districts in Illinois.
Troopers from nearby headquarters would cover the areas that are slated for closings.
“Response time could take two to three hours just to get to a crash scene because of the distance of travel that’s required. It could be 80 or 100 miles just to get to something.”
Monken said local population, crime rates and municipal police forces’ ability to pick up slack were all factors in closure decisions.
While some troopers will be transferred from closed headquarters, Monken said his organization also plans to lay off 464 officers and to not replace 100 whom he expects to retire this year. Thirty officers are also transferring to the Illinois Gaming Board to assist in the rollout of legalized video poker, a funding mechanism for the capital construction plan.
Monken said those actions would bring the number of troopers down to about 1,450, the lowest in more than 40 years.
No new cadets will be trained year, and no class is planned for next year. Union agreements forbid a cadet class from being held when layoffs occur. With the lack of new cadets and the number of officers eligible for retirement in the next year, Monken said it was possible that numbers could drop below 1,000 officers.
Specialty units would be hit hard by the cuts. The Statewide Terrorism Intelligence Center would lose more than half of its officers, and Monken said the State Police’s methamphetamine response team would be “all but eliminated.”
“Investigations will get hit pretty hard when we send people to the Illinois Gaming Board. Those are investigators that go over,” he said.
Monken said law enforcement layoffs on the county and city levels have led to increased demand for assistance with investigations. “They don’t have the resources to be able to dedicate a lot of people to investigations. … Investigations is going to get hurt, and you’re talking your most serious cases, homicide, sexual assaults big things like that.”
When asked if the scenario he described was exaggerated as an effort to pressure lawmakers for more funding or increased revenue, Monken said, “The cuts that we’ve outlined are the cuts that would be necessary if we don’t get that $32 million.”
Monken added it would take $22 million to avoid the layoffs and keep the districts open and an additional $3 million to start a new cadet class. The agency plans to start the steps necessary for closings and layoffs at the beginning of fiscal year 2011, on July 1.
Department of Corrections director Michael Randle also testified before the committee. He said the department plans to close Thomson prison by April 1 in preparation for the planned sale of the facility to the federal government. President Obama’s administration planned to house former Guantanamo Bay detainees at Thomson but met strong congressional opposition. The administration since confirmed plans to buy the prison regardless of the outcome of the proposed Guantanamo closure.