URBANA — Mayor Laurel Prussing has not been shy about verbalizing her disapproval of a state board's actions that encouraged the closure of the University of Illinois' Police Training Institute, and she hopes the city council will formalize its support for the institute when it meets this week.
Prussing will present a resolution to the council on Monday that calls on the Legislature to keep PTI open. Council members supported the resolution in a straw poll last week and will take a formal vote when they meet tonight at 7 p.m. in the Urbana City Building, 400 S. Vine St.
Prussing is one of 19 members of the Illinois Law Enforcement Training and Standards Board, which oversees professional standards for police and correctional officers. The board has not certified classes offered at the Police Training Institute this year, a move which puts the PTI's existence in jeopardy.
"I think they're abusing the power of the board and they're bullying people, and I don't think we should put up with it," Prussing said.
In her resolution, Prussing said similar actions in past years have been taken against the Illinois State Police Academy and, in each case, it "appears to be more about money and petty politics rather than the quality of instruction."
Kevin McClain, the executive director of the board, said last week that he has "a deep fondness for PTI and its employees and the people over there in Urbana."
But, he said, "I think it was the University of Illinois that decided that PTI didn't fit within their mission" and he thinks the board decided it is time to "move on."
A 2010 university committee recommended its closure and said in a report that, "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."
McClain said, on behalf of the board, he is working with Western Illinois University to develop certifiable classes to replace those that had been offered at PTI. When asked whether he supports moving the classes to Macomb, he said it ultimately is the board's decision and not his.
Prussing said the move would cost local governments more — they will have to pay for travel and lodging costs associated with sending officers to classes across the state.
"It's going to cost Champaign more, it's going to cost Urbana more, it's going to cost the University of Illinois more," Prussing said.
Prussing said the board "decertified" an in-progress firearms training course in March and caused great inconvenience to enrolled officers. She added that it was a petty action against the institute.
"Come on, people don't act like that," Prussing said.
McClain said no classes have been "decertified," only that this year's courses were not certified to begin with.
"If the course was in the process of being delivered, I have no knowledge of that," McClain said.
The Police Training Institute is operated by the UI, and McClain said university officials have become less interested in the service. Prussing said she does not necessarily lay blame with Chancellor Phyllis Wise, but she is trying to draw attention to the importance of the PTI.
Prussing's resolution cites the 1862 Morrill Act, which created land-grant universities and established their mission as, "without excluding other scientific and classical studies and including military tactic, to teach such branches of learning as are related to agriculture and the mechanic arts, in such manner as the legislatures of the States may respectively prescribe, in order to promote the liberal and practical education of the industrial classes in the several pursuits and professions in life."
Prussing hopes Wise takes notice.
"The chancellor has 20 billion things on her mind, and I'm just trying to point out to the chancellor that this is something that affects local government," Prussing said.
Prussing's resolution also says that the board is inappropriately expanding its power to manage a training institution and asks state legislators "to specify that no new academy should be created until additional capacity is needed."
She also asks the Legislature "to allocate a portion of the Criminal Surcharge fund to PTI, just as the State Police Academy was permitted a specific allocation after it was decertified" by the law enforcement training board.