Local Reps: Put Idle Police Cruisers into Service

Rep. Brian Stewart
Multi-million dollar boondoggle jeopardizes police safety; wastes taxpayer funds

Rep. Brian Stewart (R-Freeport) has renewed public pressure on the Quinn Administration to quit wasting taxpayer dollars and jeopardizing the safety of frontline state law enforcement personnel by keeping idle 85 brand new cruisers waiting to be out into service for the Illinois State Police; while also acting to amend state law to reverse a snafu that prevents the existing funding mechanism used to purchase the cars to also prepare them for service.

Since 2009, taxpayers in Illinois have been paying an extra $1 on their annual vehicle registration fee to pay for new cruisers, only to have the cars sit idle in a Springfield parking lot since the surcharge only allows for their purchase, not the cost of preparing them for police service.

In 2008, the average mileage on a retired police cruiser was 176,400 and more than a third of the fleet was older than eight years. In response, Stewart’s predecessor, former Rep. Jim Sacia (R-Pecatonica) passed legislation that year to provide a steady revenue stream so the entire State Police fleet would be replaced every three to four years. 85 new Chevrolet Caprices were purchased but currently remain idle.

Rep. Stewart cited the need to get the new cruisers into service and amend state law to make sure the funds directed to purchase them also cover the cost of preparing them for service. “For over five years, the Governor’s office has sat by and let these new cruisers collect dust in a parking lot instead of putting them into service to keep the hardworking men and women of our State Police safe on the roads. It’s alarming that it’s taken media reports and legislative pressure to bring public attention to this concern.”

Rep. Stewart’s legislation will be co-sponsored by Rep. John Cabello (R-Machesney Park), a Rockford police officer and detective with over 20 years of law enforcement experience; Rep. John D. Anthony (R-Morris), a former Kendall County Sheriff’s deputy; as well as Rep. Joe Sosnowski (R-Rockford).

“Public safety and the responsible use of taxpayer dollars should go hand-in-hand,” Rep. Cabello said. “Unfortunately with this Administration, ineptitude and bureaucracy has put the safety of our State Police in the backseat, which also threatens families and motorists all across the state who depend upon these officers in an emergency.”

“We owe the dedicated men and women of our State Police safe vehicles in which to do their job; and we owe taxpayers responsible stewardship of the fees they pay to ensure public safety,” said Rep. Anthony. “Neither of those priorities is currently being met, and that needs to change right now.”

According to a state police report, it costs about $900 a year to maintain a new car — and twice as much to keep a cruiser with more than 100,000 miles on the road.

“What we’re talking about is common-sense,” added Rep. Sosnowski. “We learned that state police mechanics at times had to weld sheet metal to the undersides of cruisers that had rusted through; and put new $4,000 engines in cars that would sell for a couple of hundred dollars at auction. That’s ridiculous, especially when we have 85 brand new cruisers sitting in a parking lot in Springfield.”

Rep. Stewart and his colleagues plan to move forward with generating bipartisan support for their amendment when the House of Representatives reconvenes in Springfield beginning April 29.

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