ROCKFORD, Ill. (WTVO) — Critical state funding used for police training is drying up, and that’s forcing departments to decide whether to pick up the tab themselves or forgo training altogether.
Rockford Police Chief Dan O’Shea says money for required law enforcement training, which normally comes from the State, isn’t coming in anymore, leaving local police departments to fill in the gaps.
“We’re all scrambling. All the departments are scrambling,” O’Shea said Friday. “It’s going to hurt us. I mean, financially, for us, sending the amount of people we do through the basic police academy throughout the year, as well as all the local training through (Mobile Team Units), it’s over $100,000. So, it’s a big hit for Rockford.”
In the past, money gathered from traffic tickets was used to cover the cost of the training. But new legislation changed the court fees, leading to the decrease of available funds.
O’Shea says the amount of training mandated for Illinois police officers is going up.
“They always continue to grow. Police officers have to be peacekeepers, they have to be lawmen, they have to be mental health and mental illness experts, they have to be domestic violence experts,” he said.
Winnebago County Sheriff Gary Caruana says the lack of funding for officer training is a matter of public safety.
“It’s put a hardship on law enforcement agencies,” said Caruana. “I want to make that when I put deputies out on the street, that they’re well-trained. Because if they’re not well trained, it shows up on the reverse side.”
While some Mobile Team Units throughout the state have stopped training, O’Shea says his officers are.
“For us, not to train officers is not an option. We will continue to do it. I don’t know where we’re going to find the money, yet. The funding has to come back up,” he said.
O’Shea says he is working with local lawmakers to address the funding gap.
State Sen. Brian Stewart (R-Freeport) has introduced legislation that would provide $5 million in state money for law enforcement training.
O’Shea says he hopes that the City of Rockford will not need to amend its budget to support the police department.
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