Illinois unable to fund additional police training due to budget impasse

CHICAGO (FOX 32 News) - A series of controversial police shootings in recent years have raised new questions about split-second decisions made by police when confronting suspects.

Now, Illinois is trying to cope with that issue. However, the state may soon be falling short.

It was cases like Sandra Bland's traffic arrest and death in Texas that prompted Illinois lawmakers to pass a new law requiring additional training for police officers. But now, it looks like the dollars needed to train those cops are drying up.

“All we're saying is, just give us our money,” said Brookside Police Chief Steven Stelter.

Stelter said police statewide were anxious to implement the new reforms. The training covers the permissible  uses of chokeholds, stop and frisk procedures, and the use of body cams.

“We're more than happy to do that. But it takes money.  It takes planning. And if the money's not there, our officers suffer,” Stelter said.

Representative Elgie Sims helped push the bill through the House. He said the training could help avoid situations like Ferguson, or Baltimore, where allegations of excessive force led to violence and  mistrust  of the police. The cost, about $16 million, would be covered by increased traffic fines.

“Those fines will be collected but there's no way to get the money out to police districts, and police departments, because there's no appropriation authority,” Sims said.

When Governor Bruce Rauner signed the bill, he said it "establishes new and important guidelines and training for police departments and their officers...."  

The governor's office, however, says the dollars can't be made available unless a budget deal is worked out in Springfield.

“It has been an eye opener,” said Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart.

Dart said the police reform bill also required additional "Crisis Intervention" training. The sheriff was preparing to offer those classes to police departments in suburban Cook County.

“The irony of it is that this past year, the legislature passed a bill requiring all sorts of training, which we were very supportive of. But now, the money to conduct the training is gone,” Dart said.

Back in Brookside, 31 officers were scheduled for training by 1 of the 14 police training units operating statewide.

“Every single one of those training units will be shutting down, at various times because they all have different amounts of money. But we're the largest in the state up here. And they get the most funds. And come November 15, they're going to be shutting their doors,” Stelter said.

Sheriff Dart said that unlike some training classes for cops, the crisis intervention classes have been very popular and officers are unhappy that they could be cut back.

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