Joliet police plan for new recruits

Joliet police squad car at Izzy's Bar on March 9, 2018. Patrick Gleason was arrested and charged for killing a bartender and wounding another man in a shooting incident.

The Joliet Police Department is making plans to train up to 50 new recruits over the next two years that officials say they expect to hire.

The new officers will be needed to replace police who have left in the past year but were not replaced because of COVID-19 budget restraints and to replace others expected to retire, police officials said.

The department now has 240 officers, down from its budgeted strength of 262 officers, they said.

“Easily in the next two years we’re going to hire 25 to 50 officers,” Lt. Andrew Jose said in a presentation to the Board of Fire and Police Commissioners on Monday.

Jose, who oversees the field training program, made the presentation with Deputy Chief Sherri Blackburn, who is deputy chief of administration.

Board Chairman Todd Wooten said the fire and police board, which oversees hiring, will be ready when the department wants to fill positions but noted city officials first must authorize more officers.

Todd Wooten appeared before the Joliet City Council on Tuesday before the council voted 4-3 against his appointment to fill the seat vacated when Councilman Don Dickinson resigned.

The city in 2020 did not fill positions in a number of areas, including the police and fire department, because of budget cutbacks while adjusting to lower tax revenues during the economic slowdown caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The police department wants to start with hiring seven officers on a schedule for them to attend the Police Training Institute in May.

Jose said police want to spread out the hiring in blocks so as not to overwhelm the departments field training program.

The institute would be followed by field training in Joliet that a leads to some officers dropping out of the program, Jose said.

About 13% of Joliet recruits don’t make it through the program, he said.

“We put them through a rigorous program, and we’re not just passing people because we want to have bodies,” Jose said.

Training is “much more intense” than in past decades, he said.

“Twenty years ago, the job was not what it is now,” Jose said. “I think everybody knows that.”