The Illinois State Police will lay off more than 460 troopers and close five regional headquarters by this fall, acting State Police director Jonathon Monken said Tuesday.
With expected retirements, the layoffs will reduce the number of sworn state troopers by about 600, or 30 percent, Monken said. The force currently has a little over 2,000 troopers.
The five offices are those in Litchfield, Carmi, Pecatonica, Macomb and Des Plaines. State Police have 22 offices now.
“There will be significant consequences to public safety,” Monken warned.
“We expect an increase in traffic fatalities, increased exposure to terrorist threats in Illinois, an increase in gun and drug trafficking, in addition to the loss of an estimated $12 million in citation revenue for counties across the state,” he said.
The cuts are being made necessary by the state’s budget crisis, Monken told a Senate appropriations committee.
“Under this budget plan, the Illinois State Police will become a different agency,” Monken said, “no longer providing pro-active programs to keep our citizens safe, but only able to respond to calls for assistance.”
The District 18 headquarters in Litchfield is the base for 33 sworn officers, Monken told reporters later. Some staff members would be relocated to other facilities, and territories covered by nearby districts – in Litchfield’s case, District 9 in Springfield and District 11 in Collinsville — would be expanded to fill gaps.
Longer response time
However, response times in some areas of the state could grow to two or three hours, he said.
“It could be 80 or 100 miles” to some crash scenes, he said.
In all, Gov. Pat Quinn’s budget calls for State Police to lose $32 million in general revenue fund appropriations, to about $378 million, Monken said.
In addition to laying off 464 sworn personnel, 30 officers are being transferred to help the Illinois Gaming Board patrol a 10th riverboat casino planned for Des Plaines, as well as enforce video poker regulations statewide.
In addition, about 100 officers are expected to retire during the fiscal year that begins June 1.
That means the agency could go from the current 2,025 sworn officers to 1,425 or 1,450 by mid-2011, about a 30 percent cut. Monken said the agency’s head count hasn’t been that low in 40 or 50 years.
The State Police will “do what they always do, which is work as hard as they need to” to promote public safety, he said.
“Needless to say,” he added, “this is anything except the ideal situation. In my opinion, we’re understaffed right now.”
“Your budget plan is scaring the heebee-jeebees out of me,” said state Sen. Donne Trotter, D-Chicago, chairman of the appropriations panel.
“That makes two of us, sir,” Monken responded.
Monken said later that if the legislature approves the 1 percentage point increase in the state income tax Quinn has requested for education, some funds could be freed up for other agencies.
Only half of the 10 officers now assigned to the Statewide Terrorism Intelligence Center in Springfield would remain on that detail. The agency’s methamphetamine response team of 42 officers spread throughout the state would be “all but eliminated,” he said.
State Sen. Dave Syverson, R-Rockford, said Winnebago County, which includes Pecatonica, has a high crime rate. He asked if Rockford police would have to take up duties that had been done by State Police.
“Yes, sir,” Monken said. “Many of the functions that we perform, they would be performing, that’s correct.”
State Police would still patrol tollways in northern Illinois, because the tollway system pays for that service, Monken said. But local agencies would have to patrol many other highways in the absence of nearby State Police officers.
Monken said the districts to be closed were picked either because they’re in relatively low-crime areas or because of the availability of other police agencies. But if the Des Plaines headquarters is closed, the entire Chicago area wouldn’t have a “bricks-and-mortar” state police presence.
“They do have 13,000 officers,” he said of the Chicago Police Department, “but that doesn’t mean they have a lot of people who are just sitting around waiting for something to do.”
Monken said no layoffs of civilian workers are planned.
“We’re at the lowest staffing level possible on the civilian side,” he said.
Bernard Schoenburg can be reached at 788-1540.
State police regional headquarters slated for closure about Sept. 1
District 18, Litchfield; 33 sworn officers
District 16, Pecatonica; 35 officers
District 14, Macomb; 32 officers
District 19, Carmi; 38 officers
Des Plaines (Chicago area): 182 officers
Read the original article from the Galesburg Register-Mail.