CHAMPAIGN — The University of Illinois Police Training Institute is sending 41 recruits from what its director calls its "comeback class" out into the world Thursday.
"Things are looking good for us," said Mike Schlosser, head of the institute that was teetering on the edge of extinction not long ago.
"We've gone from 14 full-time to five full-time staff," said Schlosser, who joked that he also acts as his own administrative assistant and secretary as well as running the place while teaching.
"Our instruction has not missed a beat because we are using experienced, knowledgeable, part-time officers who are working in the field today," said Schlosser.
Thursday's graduates started the 12-week basic program in September. The program is intended to prepare them to go back to the departments that hired them and begin their on-the-job training with experienced officers. Schlosser said the graduates are from "all over the state."
He was encouraged by the number, compared to the last couple of years when there were as few as 12. He's hoping for more than 50 in the January class.
The basic course was suspended in the spring of 2012 even though specialty courses continued. PTI was threatened with closure when a university committee concluded its work didn't mesh with the educational mission of the UI. It remained open while local politicians went to bat to keep it viable. PTI was established in 1955 by the Illinois Legislature and receives its certification from the Illinois Law Enforcement Training and Standards Board.
The institute is now self-supporting and no longer receives any subsidies from the UI, said Schlosser.
"We are doing okay. We've also added an academic research component. Our goal is to work with various colleges and departments within the UI to conduct research related to the field of law enforcement," he said.
In the works are:
— Digital forensics research and courses with the department of computer science.
— Forensic DNA research with the department of anthropology.
— Courses in conjunction with the College of Education to prepare recruits to police successfully in racially and ethnically diverse communities.
— Courses on animal abuse, canine behavior and dangerous dogs in conjunction with the ASPCA and the Best Friends Animal Society.
Schlosser said he's hopeful the new courses will be available with a year, although parts of some are being taught now.
The UI Institute of Government and Public Affairs, Center for Public Safety and Justice, is also assisting PTI in a "revalidation" research project to update the current curriculum for basic law enforcement certification.