CHAMPAIGN — An agreement has been reached to keep open the Police Training Institute at the University of Illinois.
The Illinois Law Enforcement Training and Standards Board is expected to announce on Monday that it has signed an intergovernmental agreement with the university, The News-Gazette has learned.
"We will expand our collaborative partnerships to diversify beyond training into more of an academic research component for projects we think are essential to public safety," said Kevin McClain, executive director of the training and standards board.
McClain said the board will release a copy of the agreement on Monday.
"Marshaling scholarship to serve our citizens is at the core of our mission at the University of Illinois," said UI President Bob Easter through a spokesman on Friday. "This new partnership will expand our efforts and touch the lives of people across the state, through leading edge training and research that will advance one of society's most basic and critical needs — public safety."
Easter thanked Urbana Mayor Laurel Prussing, state Sen. Mike Frerichs, state Reps. Naomi Jakobsson and Chapin Rose for their help in establishing the new partnership.
Citing an expectation that municipalities will resume hiring of police officers, McClain said he hopes "with an increase in enrollment, (PTI) will be able to do a good job of operating in the black."
Since the economic downturn, enrollments at PTI declined, contributing to a loss in revenue for the institute. 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. UI's Easter also has said publicly the university could not use tuition dollars to support PTI because it's not part of the university's core mission.
The state provides some general revenue funding for PTI, but the UI still directly 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.
The financial aspect of the arrangement still needs to be hashed out, McClain said.
Still, those involved expressed optimism going forward.
"It sounds like everybody is happy with it moving forward," Rose said. "As a former prosecutor in Champaign and knowing most of the police, I've heard from a number of police chiefs and mayors" about PTI, he said. Mayors and chiefs want to send their police officers to PTI, he said.
In addition, the institute, which attracts police officers from outside the area, helps contribute to the local economy, he said.
Rose has supported the idea of the institute becoming more connected with campus, particularly with researchers who specialize in topics such as sociology, criminal justice, kinesiology, cybercrime and more.
"I'm glad to see it looks like it's going to finally come together," Rose said. "None of this would've happened if Bob Easter hadn't reached out to the training and standards board members. He deserves a lot of credit and thanks."
At the end of May, UI trustees were expected to consider a proposal to close the institute, but a few days before the trustees' meeting, administrators pulled the agenda item, and UI officials said they would work with legislators and the state board to come up with a way to keep PTI open in response to growing pressure from Prussing and others.
On Friday, Prussing, who is a member of the training and standards board, said she had not yet seen the agreement.
Originally PTI was set to shutter at the end of 2011, but Prussing and others asked UI trustees for more time. In March, the standards board voted to not certify the PTI's basic law enforcement training class, meaning it could no longer offer classes for new officers for the rest of this year.
The goal is to offer classes again in September, McClain said.