SPRINGFIELD — The number of Illinois State Police Troopers has dropped by almost 12 percent since 2004.
With that figure in mind, ISP is making their biggest recruiting push since the 1990’s.
One of the cornerstones of that push is going to be reinstating the “Fast Track” program. It is designed to shorten the training process for prospective state troopers who were already police officers.
The State Police Academy training has some overlap with local law enforcement training. This program accelerates the training time table, so not as much time is wasted on teaching police officers information they already know.
The fast track program hasn’t been used since 2004. State trooper Calvin Dye, who works with ISP’s recruitment division, said the main reason the program wasn’t back sooner was also the reason trooper count is lower — funding.
“Well everything starts and ends with funding,” Dye said. “These academy classes, whether its 12 weeks or 26 weeks, are very expensive. You have to feed the officers, and you have to get the officers equipment.”
ISP is under a new regime this year. Commissioner Brendan Kelly was appointed in January by Governor Pritzker. Since Kelly’ appointment, Dye said one of the agencies main focuses has been recruiting.
Training for state troopers normally takes 26 weeks to complete. During that 26 weeks, troopers are staying on the training grounds, with room and board covered, and receiving a salary.
But, they can’t leave the camp to go home until the weekends, meaning that established officers with families will go long periods of time without being home.
Under the “Fast Track” program, candidates who have already worked as police officers can finish the program in 12 weeks.
“Over my career, I have had officers ask me all the time. When you bringing back “Fast Track”? When you bringing back Fast Track”? When fast track returns, I will definitely apply,” Dye said. “It was definitely a dream for some of these officers had, but they didn’t want to put the time in for the 26 weeks, especially if they have families.”
ISP is hoping that the abbreviated training period will help push more local officers into the state police ranks, and help return ISP’s trooper count back up. In 2004, there were 2,030 state troopers. In 2018, there were 1,794.
Lower trooper counts means less troopers on the roads and working other departments across the state. According to Dye, the fast track program is a win-win for both sides.
“We are ecstatic. A lot of the candidates I have been emailing with are ecstatic,” Dye said. “It’s a win-win for the candidate and the State Police who will gain people who already have police experience.”
The first class for the fast track program is slated to begin in March of 2020.