For the first time, Illinois law enforcement agencies took part in a training to help them recognize the signs of an at-risk child while on patrol. The program, developed in Texas, hopes to give Illinois patrol officers the tools to stop of intercept criminals that are hurting kids.
“We may not even be able to ever talk about the success that we have when we save a child, but it’s the best feeling in the world for any one of us,” John Arizzi, Commander with Lockport Police Department, said.
Multiple, Illinois law enforcement agencies are making strides to protect the most vulnerable population, children, by participating in the Interdiction for the Protection of Children training, focussing on teaching patrol officers how to spot an abducted, missing, or at-risk child.
“They’re the first line, they’re the first responders,” Greg Reyero, Sergeant Texas Department of Public Safety, said. “They’re the ones that are going to come in contact with these children on traffic stops or in their everyday activity.”
“Some of those things that may have been overlooked in the past, or maybe you would discount them,” Captain Carl Heinz, Illinois State Police District 16, said. “Now, our officers are going to be equipped.”
Heinz then said, “Giving them the tools, giving them the knowledge and giving them the confidence to make those assessments and to act.”
Organizers say it’s important to get members of different agencies trained, so they can easily pass information between departments and work together across jurisdictions.
“The crime may not actually be happening here, it might be happening in Missouri or Indiana or some place like that,” Arizzi said.
Arizzi then said, “It gives us the opportunity to gather intelligence, protect the children as they could be traveling through the state just stopping in the smallest town along the way.”
Officers all agree that it’s crucial to arm patrol officers with this training to help them protect and serve.
“If we wait for a child to out cry, that puts responsibility on a child to rescue themselves,” Reyero said.
“If this training helps them detect a piece of the puzzle, and they may not rescue a child the first time, but they may find a piece of that puzzle that’s going to be an intrical part of that investigation,” Heinz said.
Over 60 officers, from state and federal departments, attended the two day training. Ten of those officers will do five more days and become instructors who take the program to other parts of Illinois.