Illinois State Police offering flexibility, streamlined training for lateral recruits
A new lateral entry program aims to make it easier for experienced recruits to join
By Garen Vartanian
SPRINGFIELD, Ill. — Law enforcement officers wanting to make a career move to the Illinois State Police now have further incentive to do so.
The ISP recently announced the reimaging of the Fast Track Program into the newly created Lateral Entry Training Program. According to ISP Sgt. Calvin "Buddy" Dye Jr., this offers two big incentives for prospective candidates: Less time away from family and picking what department they want to work for.
Under the new model, instead of attending a 26-week boot-camp-like academy, candidates will attend for 14 weeks, with only five of the weeks in person. Troopers also can now select in which district they want to work.
"Some of the deterrents we faced, historically, were the academy was 26 weeks in Springfield," said Dye, ISP's Southern Region Recruitment Coordinator. "So if you already had a family, for decades, that discouraged a lot of people. 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 during nine weeks of the academy, troopers report to the district they picked to do their training.
"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.
Under the previous system, once a trooper went to the academy, there was no guarantee they would go back home. Now, if an officer is from Belleville and wants to work in Collinsville, he or she can secure that assignment.
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Previously, trooper candidates would "be interested but 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 said. "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."
Joe Moon, president of Illinois Troopers Lodge 41, said the incentives are good for the officers his union represents.
"The ability to go back to their home district is big especially if you're dealing with an established officer," Moon said. "They've already got a family established, a home established. Before, even if they wanted to come over to our agency, they knew they may need to uproot their family. This gives them the ability to stay close to home."
According to a release from the ISP, Lateral Entry Training applicants must already be a certified police officer, have graduated from an accredited law enforcement academy, and have at least two years of full-time experience.
Applicants also will be 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, or an approved equivalent.
Attracting new officers
The program is an attempt to attract new officers to offset retirements, Dye said.
" The Illinois State Police, state-wide, got the biggest budget in our history approved through the governor's office to run several academy classes," he said. "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.
"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."
Added Moon, "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."
Thorough background checks
Dye also addressed questions about whether the shorter lateral program could lead to less-qualified law enforcement candidates.
"Absolutely not," he said.
Dye noted each candidate still undergoes a rigorous and intensive background check and that anyone with past "integrity" or "character" issues from their previous department immediately will be removed from the hiring process.
"It's a lengthy background check — very thorough and detailed," he said. "We know we're getting quality officers from previous departments."
He also touched on whether securing officers away from local departments could cause shortages elsewhere.
"My answer is this: Historically, the state police, there's always been local officers and officers from the sheriff's departments who have applied with the state police and been hired with the state police," he said.
Moon echoed Dye's remarks.
"It's a good thing for our agency and officers wanting to lateral over," Moon said. "I don't think the quality of officer will be hurt by this program. If there are any problems, they'll be addressed through the process. So I don't think there's a fear of losing quality because of this."
What happens post-graduation?
Upon graduation from the ISP Academy, troopers will work in one of the 21 patrol districts across the state; however, after an initial assignment to patrol, they will have the opportunity to apply to one of the many specialty positions within the ISP, according to the release.
These specialty positions include, Drug Enforcement, Violent Crime Investigations, Crimes against Children, Gaming, Public Corruption, Forensic Crime Scene Services, Internal Investigations, Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT) Team, Air Operations, K-9 Handler, Motorcycle Unit, the Executive Protection Unit, and the Academy.
Take home car, pay incentives
Other benefits to joining the state police, Dye added, include a take-home car and no maximum salaries.
"You can't use it for personal use, but everyone has a take-home work car, even if you're working out of the academy," he said.
Interested candidates can visit www.illinoistrooper.com for applications or call Dye Jr. at 217-685-4752. The application deadline is Wednesday, June 1.
(c)2022 the Belleville News-Democrat (Belleville, Ill.)