Western’s facility will not replace Illinois’ Police Training Institute, UI says

A new police training facility planned for Western Illinois University is not intended to replace the Police Training Institute, said Robin Kaler, University spokeswoman.

However, the decision to establish the new academy was brought about by the University’s announcement last November to close the Police Training Institute, or PTI, according to a press release by the Illinois Law Enforcement Training and Standards Board.

The board voted Sept. 8 to plan a residential academy and a research institute in Macomb. According to the press release, plans call for an academy that will train newly hired police officers and deputy sheriffs for units of local government, a similar role that the PTI plays in Champaign-Urbana.

In addition, the current police academy located at Southwestern Illinois College in Belleville will also be expanded to residential status.

Kevin McClain, executive director of the board, said there was a need to have an alternate academy, in case the PTI were to close.

“The board had to take on the options of having another academy,” McClain said. “We’ve been waiting for the University for over a year to commit. The University of Illinois didn’t want to make a formal commitment.”

The board asked the University to allow them to manage and control the PTI. However, University president Michael Hogan told The Daily Illini’s Editorial Board last Friday that the University would like to keep its brand on the institute.

“So if we’re going to sustain that program, we need additional resources somewhere, and we need some assurances that if we’re going to run it as an academic program, we’re going to run it as an academic program, not somebody else,” Hogan said.

Each police training academy certified by the board controls its curriculum based upon standards set. However, the PTI is unique in that it is the only academy established by legislation as the others are authorized by the board.

Barbara O’Connor, University police chief, said the offer by the board was evaluated by the University thoroughly and was determined not to be viable for many reasons.

A public decision, as part of the Stewarding Excellence initiative, was announced last fall to close the institute at the end of 2011.

However, campus administration gave the institute an additional six months — extending the proposed closure date to June 2012. This was based on legislation that was proposed to change the funding structure, said Michael Metzler, associate director at the PTI, in April.

Hogan said the PTI was a program that the state asked the University to take on when the “money was good.”

“Then state support for those programs began to decline. And as they declined, if you want to sustain them with any quality whatsoever, you end up robbing Peter to pay Paul,” Hogan said while also referring to the Institute of Aviation.

O’Connor said the board’s decision to open additional residential academies will influence the University’s decision regarding the status of the Institute.

“Given the University’s 55-year commitment to training law enforcement officers for the state of Illinois, it is not a decision the University makes lightly,” she said. “We’ve conducted a long, thorough review, evaluating many options for PTI. This process is still underway.”

She added that she anticipates a final announcement soon. Closing the institute would require a vote by the Board of Trustees, as well as action by the state legislature.