Illinois State Police District 14 could be on state's chopping block

For the first time in more than 50 years there were no fatal traffic crashes in McDonough County last year.

A major reason for that is there are three law enforcement agencies that can respond to crashes in that area, Illinois State Police, the McDonough County Sheriff's Department and the Macomb Police Department.

But what happens when you lose one of those agencies?

KHQA's Jarod Wells found out that answer.

Illinois State Police District 14 covers a five county area; Henderson, Warren, Hancock, Fulton and McDonough Counties. And if Governor Pat Quinn's budget proposal stands, District 14 would disappear.

State Police would lose $32 million in the proposed budget. To cope with that loss the director of I.S.P. said the agency will lay off hundreds of troopers and close five regional headquarters, including District 14 in Macomb.

McDonough County Sheriff Rick VanBrooker said, "In this area especially, we all work together to provide services and we also work together to save taxpayers money."

If district 14 were to close, McDonough County and the other counties in the service area, would be on the edge of other Illinois State Police Service headquarters in Peoria and Pittsfield. Leading to longer response times for you and more work for local agencies.

VanBrooker said, "By them handling traffic, that frees us up to do other things, the criminal, the drugs. If we have to take that all on, for all the roads in the county, that's going to be a lot of extra work for us."

KHQA spoke with Macomb Police Chief Curt Barker over the phone Wednesday, March 24th. He says I.S.P. provides the most help for his department for emergency situations like the Farm King stand off a few weeks ago. But the Sheriff's Department's will be hit harder because it has a larger service area.

VanBrooker said, "So yeah that could have a negative impact if we have a loss of the state police. We rely on them, we're a rural area, at night for backup. We back each other up."

That backup has led to the statistic of no traffic crash fatalities in the past year in McDonough County, and what Sheriff VanBrooker says will be a lower crime rate.

VanBrooker said, "I would hate to cut any type of service that we're providing to the citizens, but it's either that or higher extra manpower, which where are we going to get that money."

McDonough County Sheriff Rick VanBrooker and Macomb Police Chief Curt Barker say they will be able to handle to extra work load.

VanBrooker said, "Well yeah, we have to."

But it's a situation that nobody thinks any taxpayer should have to deal with.

VanBrooker said, "I feel like the citizens of McDonough County, the surrounding counties that are in District 14, they pay taxes for police protection, the same amount as other people in the state of Illinois, we should have the same rights as everybody else and we should have a District 14 in Macomb, Illinois."

The Illinois State Police currently has 22 offices.

Part of the reason given for closing the five offices was those particular offices were already well covered by local law enforcement.

All questions regarding the closure of the district headquarters are being sent to Illinois State police Captain Scott Compton in Springfield.

We tried to contact him to find out how many jobs would be lost if district 14 were closed, or if officers would be transferred to other areas.

We never got a call back, we will continue to follow this story and bring you more information as it becomes available.