The future of the Police Training Institute at the University of Illinois is once again in jeopardy following recent action by the state board that sets the standards for police training in the state.
In a letter sent to police agencies on Tuesday, PTI interim Director Mike Schlosser said the Illinois Law Enforcement Training and Standards Board recently decided not to certify the PTI's April Basic Law Enforcement class.
The practical effect of that decision is that the 56-year-old institute will no longer offer its basic classes for officers for the rest of the year.
The news comes at a time when university officials have been working with state legislators on a bill that would establish a fund to provide money for the institute, which organizers want to develop into a nationally recognized center for research and training in law enforcement. Revenue for the training fund would come from a surcharge applied on felony and misdemeanor convictions in the state.
Back in 2010, a university committee proposed ending funding for the center, but legislators and other local politicians lobbied the UI Board of Trustees to keep it open.
"This is an unfortunate outcome given the fact that there had been renewed discussions between ILETSB and the University of Illinois in the weeks leading up to the board meeting.
Those discussions were intended to create a collaborative agreement that would continue training at the PTI. It was a shock for me to learn at the board meeting that these discussions were not going to continue," Schlosser wrote.
"I am uncertain what this means for the future of our academy," wrote Schlosser, who declined further comment on Tuesday.
Kevin McClain, executive director of the Illinois Law Enforcement Training and Standards Board, did not return a call seeking comment.
The decision has put the city of Urbana in a tough position, according to Pat Connolly, its police chief.
The city hired a new police officer and planned for that officer to attend the April class at PTI. Now department staff are scrambling to find space at another training facility in the state, he said.
"I've seen lot of other police training institutes. Bar none, the University of Illinois Police Training Institute provides the best training to police that anybody could ask for," Connolly said.
He called the decision by the training and standards board a "shock to everybody."
That includes Urbana Mayor Laurel Prussing, who sits on the board and voted against the measure.
She said cities around Illinois, including Carbondale, Evanston and Rockford, all send officers to the institute and appreciate the kind of training they receive there.
The basic course covers fundamentals, Connolly said, and is scenario-based, where recruits can put into practice what they learn.
The institute will continue to provide specialty courses in firearms and arrest and control tactics, according to Schlosser.
"I am not ready to give up the fight just yet. Hopefully I will have better news in the near future," Schlosser wrote.
Just last month, state Reps. Chapin Rose, R-Mahomet, and Naomi Jakobsson, D-Urbana, introduced legislation that would continue to help fund PTI.
On Tuesday, Rose said he intended to work with Jakobsson to move the bill forward.
"What we need is a world-class institution that merges research that faculty are working on with the hands-on application of the training academy," Rose said.