State police to cut 464 troopers

March 24, 2010 2:53:19 PM PDT
Fewer troopers will be patrolling Illinois roads because of the state's budget crisis.The director of the state police says 464 troopers will lose their jobs. The force currently has 2,025 troopers. Another 30 officers are being transferred to patrol the new Des Plaines riverboat casino. And another 100 officers retiring on June 1 won't be replaced. That would leave about 1,400 officers by the middle of next year -- the lowest number in 40 or 50 years.

Five of the 22 state police regional headquarters will also be shuttered. Those offices are in Carmi, Des Plaines, Litchfield, Macomb and Pecatonica. The post in Des Plaines patrols the expressway system with 182 officers.

Here in Chicago, the most noticeable change would be that state troopers will no longer be patrolling area expressways as of July 1. It could be open season on speeding.

State troopers have patrolled Chicago-area interstates since 1985.

Mayor Daley says the cuts amount to an unfunded mandate from the state, which the city can't afford either.

Ticket writing and revenue will go down by the millions, and many drivers won't be complaining about that. But Illinois State Police say the flipside to losing hundreds of state troopers because of the massive budget deficit is that the expressways are bound to become more dangerous.

"At the end of the day, this just comes down to safety," Jonathon Monken, state police director.

Monken says Gov. Quinn's budget calls for cutting $32 million from the state police force. "We expect there is going to be a very significant impact on public safety. The fundamental function we perform is that highway enforcement piece. Nobody likes to get a speeding ticket but at end of day that translates to safety, that's lives," said Monken.

Five regional headquarters in these cities will also be closed, including northwest suburban Des Plaines leaving the entire Chicago area with no offices for state police.

Currently, there are 182 troopers patrolling local expressways.

The Chicago Police Department is already some 700 officers short of its authorized strength, and Superintendent Jody Weis agrees with Mayor Daley that the city can't afford to take on highway patrol.

"I've got my fingers crossed that it doesn't take place because it would be challenging. We've had the benefits of the Illinois State Police patrolling for a long time," said Weis.

And with a massive construction season set to begin in April, the Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT) says it fears the cuts are a matter of life or death to workers in construction zones.

"With less troopers out on road, that means there's a greater chance for fatalities to occur," said Marisa Kollias, IDOT spokesperson.

IDOT says it could affect everyone who drives on Chicago's expressways. Response times for accidents or motorists who break down are likely to go up quite a bit. The roads won't be cleared as quickly and that will no doubt result in even longer delays.

It is not just traffic patrol. State police also have a meth unit, a terrorism task force and other programs. All of them face drastic cuts.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.