TROY, Illinois—A group of critics in Southern Illinois are opposing a budget plan to close 16 of the state’s 20 dispatch centers for the state police.
Those cuts would include the Collinsville District 11 Dispatch Center, a communications center that doesn’t just dispatch traffic calls on the interstate. It also communicates with undercover drug teams and members of the fugitive task force.
So when Officer Michael Braxton was shot in East St. Louis March 6 at the Orr-Weathers housing project, some police worry remote dispatchers wouldn’t have been much help.
“They call in and it’s not a specific address or at the 50-mile marker. Its ‘I’m in the Orr-Weathers housing project.’ These people answering the phones in Springfield will have no idea were these things are at,” said Troy Police Chief Bob Rizzi.
That’s why some call the cuts a public safety issue, especially in a region with a high violent crime rate.
Under the Illinois Governor Pat Quinn’s plan, Springfield would be the nearest dispatch center. It would also cost $15 million to consolidate, which leaves the state looking for money.
“They’ve got to make cuts somewhere. Why not make the cuts here? Well a couple months ago Governor Quinn gave hundreds of millions in tax breaks to big corporations like Chicago Merc Exchange and Sears, then turns around and wants to cut middle class jobs,” said Carla Gillespie, dispatchers union representative.
At this point the plan still needs funding, but continues to move ahead in the State Capitol.
A spokesperson for Illinois State Police says it’s premature at this point to comment on specific plans, but added the department does not believe it would impact public safety.
That clearly puts them at odds with their own employees and other local law enforcement agencies.