CHAMPAIGN — After well over a year of uncertainty, University of Illinois officials have decided to shutter the Police Training Institute, pending approval from the UI Board of Trustees.
A plan to close the institute is expected to be sent to trustees for a vote at their next regularly scheduled board meeting, on May 31 in Chicago.
"We are planning to close it," Chancellor Phyllis Wise told The News-Gazette on Friday afternoon.
A closing date has not been set yet.
The move comes a little more than a month after the state board that sets the standards for police training, the Illinois Law Enforcement Training and Standards Board, voted to not certify the Police Training Institute's basic law enforcement training class. The practical effect of that decision meant the institute could no longer offer classes for new officers for the rest of this year. Another training class was subsequently canceled after the agency did not certify it as well.
"It's been a very long process. ... There were simply no funding sources identified and the training board was not certifying the courses," campus spokeswoman Robin Kaler said.
Fewer than 10 employees will be affected; some have received terminal contracts. Civil service employees will move to different units on campus based on seniority, Kaler said.
The institute, established by the state Legislature in 1955, had been slated for closure after a 2010 university committee concluded the institute had little connection to the UI's educational mission. The UI could no longer afford to subsidize its operation, the report found.
"PTI does not serve a core mission of a land-grant university. There is no justification to provide $900,000 in annual university general revenue funding to train police officers. This high subsidy necessarily diverts money that is meant for more essential campus priorities," the report said.
PTI was tentatively scheduled to close at the end of last year, but state legislators and local politicians pleaded with UI trustees to give them time to work with PTI staff on creating a vision for an institute that was more connected to campus faculty and research programs. A bill introduced earlier this year also proposed an alternative funding structure for the institute through a surcharge on convictions in the state.
"It's a shame," said state Rep. Chapin Rose, R-Mahomet, who was one of the local legislators who has been talking with UI officials and training board staff about the possibility of keeping PTI open. "I blame the UI and some of its conduct two years ago and the training and standards board for not doing anything to repair those relationships," he said.
Rose said members of the law enforcement community were offended by the 2010 UI committee report that called into question the value of PTI's relationship with the campus. Since that report came out, the training and standards board has been moving toward establishing a new institute affiliated with Western Illinois University.
Since PTI's classes were not certified, local law enforcement agencies have been scrambling to find slots at other academies around the state. In Urbana, officials want to send their officers to PTI.
"The Urbana Police Department is an excellent police department and we need excellent training. PTI is known as the best in the state," said Urbana Mayor Laurel Prussing, a member of the training and standards board.
She blames the training and standards board and its executive director, Kevin McClain, for not working with the university more on keeping PTI open.
McClain said he supports the concept of a police training institute connected with a research program, but this was not the right time.
"It would have had to really be a cooperative effort with us. Times are tough in the state of Illinois for funding and I think the timing was bad for now. As you know, as the University of Illinois knows, this is a time when everyone is tightening belts rather than doing things that are bigger and better," McClain said.
"Ultimately it was the University of Illinois that felt that, within its priorities, the outcome that did come about was probably in their best interests," he said.
"I feel sad and it's been a pleasure working with PTI for all these years. And for all those people who worked there, I wish them the best," McClain added.
As for the anticipated opening of an academy in Macomb, McClain said that may happen in late summer or early fall.