Agreement signed to give PTI new life

CHAMPAIGN — Six months after its anticipated closure, the University of Illinois Police Training Institute has been given new life on campus as a police academy that also will be involved in criminal justice research.

The Police Training Institute will remain on the UI campus, according to a new agreement signed between the university and the Illinois Law Enforcement Training and Standards Board, the entity that certifies police training in the state.

"We have found a solution that is economically sustainable and does not rely on student tuition dollars to provide the institute with operating resources," said UI Vice President and Urbana Chancellor Phyllis Wise in a statement Monday.

The institute, established by the Illinois Legislature in 1955, has been in a precarious position since 2010 when a university committee concluded the institute had little connection to the UI's educational mission and the university could no longer afford to subsidize its operation. Since the economic downturn, enrollments at PTI declined, contributing to a loss in revenue for the institute.

Originally slated to close at the end of 2011, the institute remained opened while state legislators, mayors and police chiefs lobbied the board for more time to come to an agreement.

The state provides some general revenue funding for PTI, but the UI still funds some of its operations. The amount of the university's subsidy to PTI has varied throughout the years, but was as high as over $1 million and has been reduced by several hundred thousand dollars since the review. In recent years, the number of full-time employees has been reduced from 14 to five. (In addition to the full-time staff, the institute hires about 100 part-time, hourly employees to conduct the training courses.)

"Our goal is to not have to be subsidized by the university at all," said Mike Schlosser, PTI's director. As more municipalities hire police officers again, enrollments are expected to increase.

"The new part that all of us are excited about is our added research component to the institute. We will be conducting academic research in various law enforcement and criminal justice practices," Schlosser said.

Monday's announcement paves the way for the institute's basic law enforcement classes to begin on Sept. 9. Correctional officer classes can start up again, and the specialty and advanced courses, such as on firearms or arrest tactics, can also continue.

The institute never stopped offering its specialty classes, even after the board voted not to certify PTI's courses earlier this spring. The training and standards board agreed to retroactively certify anyone who's gone through PTI's courses in recent months, Schlosser said.

"The board is pleased to formalize and expand its role with the university to collaborate and share resources for the benefit of law enforcement and public safety," said Board Chairman and Adams County Sheriff Brent Fischer in a statement.

Institute staff will now begin re-evaluating current curriculum and the requirements to become certified as a police officer in the state of Illinois. That could mean extending the amount of hours required for training, according to Schlosser.

"It just makes sense to collaborate with the colleges and departments on campus for academic research. We will be looking into many opportunities for research," he said.

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