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Pritzker Proposes Funding To Cover Police Training Gap

J.B. Pritzker closeup
Amr Alfiky
Gov. J.B. Pritzer's office said it has proposed funding to enable police departments to continue officer training.

The Pritzker administration is seeking additional funding for law enforcement to continue training for police officers, and there's some dispute over whether the funding crisis is as bad as police are making it seem.
A projected $5 million shortfall stemming from a new Illinois law changing how court fines and fees are administered has left police departments across Illinois paying for much of the state-mandated academy training for new police hires and their ongoing training.

Carol Knowles, deputy communications director for the Governor’s Office of Management and Budget, said Gov. J.B. Pritzker is asking for an additional $3 million for the current budget year ending in June and an additional $3 million in the proposal 2021 fiscal year budget to address the shortfall.

“With this funding, the (Illinois Law Enforcement Training and Standards Board) should have no issue in reimbursing local law enforcement agencies for training costs as they have in the past,” Knowles said in an email.

She added the Illinois Law Enforcement Training and Standards Board, which administers the training, didn’t alert the governor’s budget office about the problem.

“We learned about it through other means and took steps to proactively address it,” Knowles said.

ILETSB Executive Director Brent Fischer said his organization updated the police academies, state legislators and the Illinois comptroller and treasurer’s office about their funding uncertainty, but couldn’t say for sure when his office took up the issue with the governor’s office.

“We may not have known if the governor’s office knew about it, but at least the people we interact with and how our accounting process of bills and revenues come in, we were trying to maintain that point of contact,” Fischer said.

Two days after Pritzker presented a $42.1 billion budget to the General Assembly in February, Illinois House Majority Leader Greg Harris, D-Chicago, filed a budget amendment to provide the additional $3 million in funding for this year.

Fischer said while he’s not sure that will be enough, he considers it a good-faith gesture to help ensure police will get the training they need.

“Whether it’s enough or not, I think it shows good faith that they want to provide extra money for a set of cash available so that as we get to the end of the fiscal year, we have a little bit to fall back on,” Fischer said, adding it’s too soon to say when police training units will be made available.

Bob Siron leads police training for the mobile team unit based at Heartland Community College. His unit oversees training for 36 police departments in McLean, Livingston, Ford and Iroquois counties.

Siron said he would welcome the additional funding Pritzker is proposing, but said it wouldn’t address the structural deficit.

“Would an extra $3 million help?” Siron asked. “Yes, but is it going to serve the long-term problem? I don’t think so.”

Siron has had to cancel much of the police training his unit offers. He said until there’s a budget remedy, it’s only hosting the training that the federal government has funded or that local police officers teach at their department’s own cost.

Some police departments have started exploring online training options.

Carol Knowles with the governor's budget office rejects the contention that the police training board can't afford to pay for training.

She said the agency has historically not spent its full state allotment. In recent years, the state has budgeted $16 million annually and the agency has spent between $13 million to $15 million. She said that should enable the training board to cover any temporary shortfalls. 

The new funding request still requires legislative approval.

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