This was one press release that landed in the in box this morning that I certainly could have lived without seeing. The sheer shortsightedness of this astounds me. I depend on the CPO's, you depend on the CPO's - when this all started I penned “Who Ya Gonna Call?”
My feelings have not changed. In fact if anything, they have grown stronger in support for our Conservation Police Officers.
Read it and weep folks…..
SPRINGFIELD – Hunters who are taking advantage of Illinois’ ongoing deer hunting season this year should take a close look at any Conservation Police Officers they encounter. Those sightings may soon be rare indeed, as the number of those officers could be reduced to what wildlife enthusiasts may call critically endangered status.
“Thirty-two of the state’s more than 130 Conservation Police Officers, including several decorated combat veterans, are slated to lose their jobs at the end of the year,” said Illinois Fraternal Order of Police Labor Council (FOP) Assistant Executive Director Shawn Roselieb. “This reduction in officers further erodes the oldest state law enforcement department which at one time boasted 189 officers. Neither the workload nor the responsibilities of the officers have diminished. All of Illinois’ natural resources and everyone who enjoys this state’s great outdoors will suffer the consequences of these reductions. The only people that will benefit are the poachers, polluters, and predators.”
Layoff notices have been sent to 20 current field officers and 12 recent graduates of the Conservation Police Academy. The officers are members of Local Number 804-1 represented by the FOP Labor Council.
“These layoff notices came from a governor who claims to be an avid hunter and outdoorsman and a big supporter of police and law enforcement,” Roselieb said. All of the officers targeted for layoff are employees of the Illinois Department of Natural Resources (IDNR). No layoffs are planned for IDNR administrative staff.
“Reducing the number of officers by nearly one-quarter will significantly reduce law enforcement on IDNR properties, water safety patrols, fish and wildlife protection, timber protection, endangered species protection, citizen rescues, snowmobile safety, hunter safety, and natural disaster response,” Roselieb said. “In addition, Conservation Police Officers perform Homeland Security duties around nuclear power stations, locks and dams, bridges and pipelines, and these responsibilities will suffer as well.”
Conservation Police Officers also assist local, state and federal law enforcement when called upon in cases ranging from misdemeanors to murder. Much of what Conservation Police do in the field is reimbursed by federal agencies, and reducing services endangers those federal funds.
In an impact statement submitted to the Rauner administration regarding the planned layoffs, the Illinois Conservation Police Office of Law Enforcement warned that if the reductions go through Illinois can expect extended response time for non-emergencies, little or no coverage on state lands during the boating season, reduced response during natural disasters and for Homeland Security operations, reduced protection of natural resources, no Safety Education courses for schools and civic organizations, and more overtime costs incurred.
According to official IDNR documents, the State of Illinois has already spent approximately $2.6 million to date on the current Conservation Police Officer trainee class for training and salaries. The deadline to certify the 12 remaining members of this class is December 31, 2016, the same day all of them are scheduled to be laid off.
The IDNR had planned to assign these trainees after they were certified as officers to some of the most well-used natural areas in the state, including Starved Rock State Park, Illinois’ most visited state park and the scene of frequent citizen rescues; Chain-O-Lakes, Fox Waterway and Lake and McHenry Counties, one of the most heavily used recreational boating areas in the nation; and the Frank Holten – Horseshoe Lake State Parks in Madison and St. Clair Counties, with more than a million visitors and a high incidence of crime and arrests.
Twenty-five of the targeted officers, including nine of the trainees scheduled for layoff, are combat veterans. These include Conservation Police Officer Joshua Mooi, who received the Navy Cross as a U.S. Marine in Afghanistan following a Taliban ambush when he went back under intense fire multiple times to carry away wounded and killed Marines despite having his rifle being disabled by enemy fire.
Another veteran slated for layoff is Lisa Schoenhoff, who served with the U.S. Army National Guard in Afghanistan and received the Combat Action Badge. She is an IDNR defensive tactics instructor, academy adviser and physical fitness instructor and has been a Conservation Police Officer since 2012.
Justin Knopp is an IDNR officer trainee who served with the National Guard in Afghanistan as part of a mission to support Special Forces in that country. He had re-enlisted and requested to be deployed to Afghanistan as quickly as possible in order to meet the qualifications to be a Conservation Police Officer. He was the Valedictorian of his Conservation Police Officer Academy class.
“These reductions in staff seem like a slap in the face from a governor who professes his admiration of those who have served in our military. Conservation Police Officers know how to deal with threats from wildlife, water and weather, but this new threat of political gamesmanship is something our officers haven’t been trained for, and may be the most dangerous of all,” Roselieb said. “We urge everyone who values the great outdoors and a safe and peaceful society to contact their elected officials and demand that the welfare of our state is placed ahead of political gains.”
The FOP Local Number 804-1 is part of the Illinois Fraternal Order of Police Labor Council, a law enforcement union representing more than 11,600 professionals in more than 514 bargaining units who work in the criminal justice system. The Labor Council negotiates and enforces contracts and improves salaries, working conditions, and benefits for law enforcement professionals throughout Illinois. Its members include police officers who work for municipalities, universities, and elected Constitutional officials; county sheriff’s deputies, correctional and court security officers; probation officers; 911 telecommunicators; law enforcement records personnel; and some related support staff.