CHICAGO (CBS) — Many police departments are losing officers and struggling to recruit new ones.
That’s why the Illinois state police chief is offering hiring incentives — hoping to add hundreds to the ranks. CBS 2 Political Investigator Dana Kozlov spoke to ISP Director Brendan Kelly this week about the challenges facing his department.
“We’re pushing hard,” Kelly said. “We try to compete very aggressively.”
You could call it an Illinois State Police recruiting drive. Videos and social media ads are now part of a campaign to recruit and train 300 new soldiers over the next two years.
“It’s always a matter of give and take,” Kelly said. “We always have new people coming in and people retiring, so there’s a constant need.”
Director Kelly said the goal is to get back to more than 2,000 troops in the department, up from around 1,700 at present. Kelly said the numbers were higher than they were in 2017, after former Gov. Bruce Rauner’s budget stalemate triggered a hiring freeze.
The pandemic has also slowed hiring.
But there are other challenges, including an anti-police sentiment held by many since the murder of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin.
Kozlov: “How did that impact your ranks and also your recruiting efforts, do you think?”
Kelly: “Obviously it has an impact.”
That’s why PSI is offering new recruiting incentives, such as lowering the retirement age from 60 to 50 and allowing recruits to complete their training and work close to home. .
After the tragic suicides of two soldiers recently, Kelly says the department is also improving its mental health awareness.
“We’re improving as an institution to discuss the importance of taking care of your gear,” Kelly said. “The most important basic piece of equipment you have is your brain.”
He also says investigative tools like license plate reader cameras help soldiers do their job. Kelly said they just added three dozen more to the 100 already along the highways.
“Whenever there’s a shooting, we use license plate readers as part of the investigation,” Kelly said. “It’s not occasional. It’s every time.”
Director Kelly says the ISP has the biggest budget in its history for the next fiscal year, around $800 million. The deadline to apply for the October cadet academy training is June 1st.