The Illinois State Police (ISP) recently announced a new lateral training program to attract experienced candidates and ward off staffing shortages.
The lateral training entry program is part of the department’s reimagined fast track program. According to ISP Sergeant Calvin Dye Jr., the program aims to incentivize applicants by streamlining the training process and allowing candidates to choose which district they want to work for.
Under the new model, training time will be reduced from 26 weeks to 14 weeks, with only five of those weeks in person at the academy, thus allowing candidates to spend more time with their families. It also allows new troopers to select the district they would like to work for.
Dye, who works as ISP’s southern region recruitment coordinator, said that the previous 26-week boot camp academy in Springfield often deterred potential candidates with a family.
“Some of the deterrents we faced, historically, were the academy was 26 weeks in Springfield. So if you already had a family, for decades, that discouraged a lot of people,” Dye explained. “They don’t want to be gone for six months and two weeks. They’d say they had a 1 1/2-year-old and that they don’t get to see them. With the lateral program, we’ve eliminated these deterrents.”
Dye said that in the new training system, instead of spending the majority of time at the academy, recruits will train for nine weeks at the district headquarters they eventually work at.
“You may have to go back to the academy for driving and shooting, but, for the most part, it’s only five weeks in person,” he said.
Dye said that previously interested candidates did not want to be torn away from their families.
“[They] would say they don’t want to have to move away from home to Chicago or Kanakakee where they were four or five hours from home,” Dye told the Belleville News-Democrat. “Now, if you’re from the metro-east and want to stay in Collinsville, you’ve got it. You get to go to your desired district in the state. That’s where a lot of the discouragement ends. “They didn’t want to do the full 26 weeks away from family and not risk the chance of not coming back home after they graduated,” Dye continued.
According to the ISP website, lateral entry training or fast track applicants must already be a certified police officer and have graduated from an accredited law enforcement academy. They must also have at least two years of full-time experience.
Additionally, applicants are required to provide proof of successfully completing the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration/International Association of Chiefs of Police-approved DWI/DUI Detection and Standardized Field Sobriety Testing training program.
According to Dye, attracting lateral transfers will help the ISP meet its goal of recruiting 300 new officers — a goal backed by the largest budget in the state’s history.
“The Illinois State Police, state-wide, got the biggest budget in our history approved through the governor’s office to run several academy classes. We’re trying to get at least 300 troopers hired and sent through the academy through the next several months. It’s our biggest recruiting push ever,” Dye said.
Dye said the academy classes and recruitment efforts should offset upcoming retirement.
“We’re a big agency with a lot of different facets. We have a lot of different departments within the agency. And, the agency as a whole, it takes a lot of people to staff it. With the upcoming retirements we have in the next few months, that’s the main reason we have this big emphasis and push for recruitment.”
President of Illinois Troopers Lodge #41 Joe Moon supported the ISP’s new training model.
“The ability to go back to their home district is big, especially if you’re dealing with an established officer,” Moon said.
Moon then referenced the attrition rates in police departments across the country and said the program, if effective, could protect the ISP from staffing shortages.
“I think the concept of it is good. Hopefully, it’ll be a good program that works. The facts are, just like every other police agency across the nation, we’re losing officers to attrition before we can hire them. We’re looking for anything we can do to bring officers into our agency.”
Union and ISP officials agreed that lateral recruiting would improve officer quality by adding experience to the ranks. Dye further confirmed that “lengthy background checks” are in place to assess the integrity and character of applicants.