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Column

Cooperative police force in Illinois Valley worth investigating

City leaders and police officials in Spring Valley, LaSalle, Peru and Oglesby have taken the unprecedented step of discussing how to implement more cooperation among their police departments. Their efforts could improve law enforcement for citizens and save substantial amounts of money, too. We applaud them.

Police departments are filled with brave men and women. That’s pretty much a given.

Law enforcement personnel never know, from one day to the next, what kind of dangerous situations they might be called upon to deal with.

They must be ready to bravely face lawbreakers, respond to traffic crashes, and otherwise help to restore order when disorder arises.

A new kind of courage was demonstrated last week by four area police departments in Spring Valley, Peru, LaSalle and Oglesby.

They are talking about doing more to work together and share their limited resources.

We say, Hurray!

The mayors and police chiefs of those four Illinois Valley cities conducted a news conference Jan. 18 where they shared details of their previously quiet discussions about cooperating more than they already have.

LaSalle, Peru, Oglesby and Spring Valley already consolidated their dispatching services two years ago. The Illinois Valley Regional Dispatch Center is based in Peru.

Peru is also where they are discussing the possibility of constructing a new regional police headquarters to be shared by the four departments. That idea emerged after Peru city officials, led by Peru Mayor Scott Harl, had been talking about building a new headquarters for that city’s police force.

Other possible benefits of cooperation among the four departments come in the areas of better training, better equipment, sharing available officers and investigators, and in general, lessening the duplication of services that is currently the case among the departments.

An additional major benefit involves cost. Cooperation among law enforcement is expected to save money — an amount estimated in the millions of dollars in the coming years.

“Twenty years ago, this wouldn’t even have been a discussion, but we’re sharing schools and several other services, and this makes good financial sense,” Harl said.

The long-term potential financial savings of a shared police service is almost too big to comprehend. The figure they talked about at the news conference was $250 million in savings over the next 60 years.

“I think that number is staggering,” Spring Valley Mayor Walt Marini said.

We’re staggered by it, too.

Many details still need to be worked out, and officials promised the discussions would be transparent and that the public would be kept informed. Approval of a plan for construction of the shared police station is likely two years away, Peru Police Chief Doug Bernabei said. Officials also said each department would maintain its own identity, and that the jobs and pensions of police officers would not be affected.

Here’s LaSalle Mayor Jeff Grove’s viewpoint: “If we can enhance the law enforcement services of our cities, keep our citizens safer while still realizing long-term savings in the very substantial amounts we’re projecting, we certainly want to explore this possibility in greater detail.”

We applaud leaders and police chiefs from these four cities for embracing intergovernmental cooperation and taking bold steps to make it happen.

In an era of higher costs for government – driven by increasingly higher pension costs, for one thing – combined government services is a concept worth courageously exploring and implementing.

– Tonica News Editorial Board

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