Last-ditch effort to keep PTI
Even as the University of Illinois prepares to set a June 30 closing date, the effort continues to keep the Police Training Institute open.
While Urbana Mayor Laurel Prussing is running a public campaign to spur support for continuation of the University of Illinois Police Training Institute, UI President-in-Waiting Robert Easter is working behind the scenes to achieve the same goal.
But, given what's transpired, PTI supporters say it's a long shot that the institute that has trained hundreds of police officers since it was established by the Legislature in 1955 will survive.
"It's the bottom of the ninth with two out, and we're flying on a wing and a prayer," said metaphor-mixing state Rep. Chapin Rose.
In other words, circumstances are grave. UI officials are simultaneously laying the groundwork for a May 31 vote by trustees to close PTI while being supportive of efforts to keep it open without being subsidized by tuition dollars.
Meanwhile, the Illinois Law Enforcement Training and Standards Board, which controls PTI's fate, and Western Illinois University are working together to establish a new police training academy at WIU.
If it was just an issue of money, Rose said he expects the UI could continue to operate PTI. Between PTI budget cuts and proposed new sources of revenue, he said the training institute could continue without any UI subsidy. But Rose said the effort to close PTI is so close to fruition that it will be difficult to reverse.
The UI started the push to close PTI several years ago when, in a cost-cutting move, it announced that the cost of subsidizing the facility approached $1 million a year. The UI said closing it would not cause a problem because police training is not part of the university's core mission.
That conclusion, of course, depends on how one defines core mission. PTI is not academic in the sense that electrical engineering or literature are academic. But the reality is that the Legislature decides what the UI's core mission is, and it assigned training police officers to the UI. Further, outreach is one of the UI's main missions, along with teaching and research.
It goes without saying that training police officers to be competent, dedicated professionals is crucial to the public welfare. PTI has excelled in that role over the years, maintaining a solid reputation to the point that communities all over the state send their new officers here to learn the ropes.
That's good for the UI because it boosts its public service profile. PTI is also of collateral benefit to the community because of the economic boost visitors to our community provide.
If the cost issue can be addressed, there's no downside to maintaining PTI on the UI campus. Time is drawing short, but if it can be saved, it should be saved.