Illinois State Police to move district headquarters to East St. Louis, officials say
Editor's note: This story was originally published in the Belleville News-Democrat.
The Illinois State Police will move its District 11 headquarters from Collinsville to East St. Louis, according to Brendan Kelly, director of the agency.
The new facility will be built next to the Jackie Joyner-Kersee Center, which is located on Argonne Drive.
District 11 serves Bond, Clinton, Madison, Monroe and St. Clair counties.
Kelly said in an interview with the BND that a main impetus for the decision to move is the current facility is too crowded for the district’s growing activities. District 11 has to share the Collinsville facility with the Illinois Department of Transportation and other state agencies. The Collinsville location has been District 11’s home since 1987.
As part of Gov. J. B. Pritzker’s Rebuild Illinois Capital Plan, $55 million has been allocated to the Illinois State Police for a new metro-east facility that will solely be dedicated to the work of the police agency. Funds from the Rebuild Illinois program, signed into law in 2019, are intended to address infrastructure needs across the state.
“If you can reduce crime, that makes it more attractive for investment in a community that’s showing an investment in public safety, so it has a cumulative effect that can build over time to really improve (the) community,” Kelly said. “All these things are coming together at once. The state police are honored to be a part of this broader effort, and I think the partnership and the positive relationship that we have with stakeholders like JJK (Jackie Joyner-Kersee Center) will also be a benefit and, (with) the access that the location will have for the entire region, public safety will also be a benefit.”
“We’ll have our criminal investigation headquartered there, patrol, special operations like SWAT may have some space there and our communications. This will be an investment not just in public safety, but an investment in the entire region.”
Pritzker made a formal announcement about the headquarters move and the release of initial funding at a press conference in East St. Louis on Tuesday.
“Today, we take a significant step forward in ensuring the safety and opportunity of Metro East reflects what its residents deserve – what all of Illinois deserves: a community where all our families can thrive,” Pritzker said in an statement from his office. “This state-of-the-art facility will take a holistic approach to violent crime reduction, making the community safer and establishing an anchor for residential and business investment.”
The new facility will feature two buildings: a headquarters that’s about 62,500 square feet and a roughly 21,000 square-foot warehouse. Kelly said it would take at least three years to complete the project.
“The initial funds will go into the design and architecture and engineering process,” Kelly told the BND. “As part of that process, we’ll be getting the various needs and perspectives of our investigators, our troopers, etc but also reaching out to the community to make sure our presence there in terms of how the building is designed will contribute to an overall positive presence, so we’ll be including community stakeholders as that design process moves forward.”
Kelly said public forums will be held to involve the community in the design process for the new headquarters.
“It can take several years to collect that information and design a building and put it out for bid through the capital development board,” he said. “This is a multi-year, several year process, but the most important step is getting the location and moving forward with the design.”
Plans to prioritize community engagement
The land that will be the new home for the Illinois State Police District 11 was donated to the agency by Lansdowne Up, a new East St. Louis nonprofit that aims to revitalize the community. Earlier this year, the faith-based organization announced plans to develop a 20-home subdivision at the intersection of 25th Street and Gross Avenue—a two-minute drive from where the Illinois State Police District 11 headquarters will be.
“We’re looking at luring people back to East St. Louis, giving them reasons to come back,” Kevin Green, director of administration for Lansdowne Up, said in March about the nonprofit’s goal for the community.
Director Kelly commends the group’s passion for uplifting the city. He said its donation of land, which was submitted in 2020, met all the requirements that the agency was looking for in a new location. The Illinois State Police selected the property for the new headquarters in June of 2020.
“We were looking for a minimum of four acres,” Kelly said. “It needed to be within two miles of the interstate system and needed to be within walking distance of public transportation. It would have to accomodate the square footage we were looking for, including parking. It needed the right environmental assessments and proper zoning and utilities, etc… JJK is right there on MetroLink.”
“Obviously, the interstate is our main area of focus for the Illinois State Police, but we also want to be able to access the interstate to get around the region to be able to respond to public safety emergencies around the region and this location right on I-64 connects with(Interstates) 55, 255, 70, 64 is an ideal location next to public transportation and also having a very positive impact on the overall community there.”
Bridging the gap?
Kelly cited the agency’s growing relationship with East St. Louis as another reason why the state agency chose the location. The Illinois State Police launched its Public Safety Enforcement Group (PSEG) in 2020 to help the East St. Louis Police Department handle investigations for homicides, non-fatal shootings, aggravated assault, sexual assault, robbery and other violent crimes in the city. In December, the group touted a 55% clearance rate for homicides last year.
The agency also assists East St. Louis School District 189’s Wraparound Wellness Center by offering trauma-informed resources to children who’ve experienced violent crimes in the area. Kelly perceives the new headquarters as a necessary extension of the close connection the agency already has with the city and its residents. He said the plans follow the agency’s statewide model in having a community-based approach in policing.
“The partnership with District 189, the partnership that we have with various faith-based organizations is only bound to grow stronger over this period, and this model, which is a holistic model, definitely has its benefits,” Kelly said. “That creates more community engagement and reinforces the trust between law enforcement and the people that need protecting to create a safe space for other things to grow.”
Attempting to build trust between police and predominantly Black communities in the United States, like East St. Louis, is a challenge, especially given the history of police brutality against Black people.
In East St. Louis, two allegations of police brutality surfaced in 2022. This spring, two Black men filed complaints alleging that an East St. Louis police officer beat them during a March arrest. One of them said in a complaint that he was beaten so badly that he needed stitches on his eyebrow and nose. In June, East St. Louis Police Department said an outside agency is investigating a 2019 video that showed an officer entering an East St Louis jail cell and apparently spraying a substance on a teen who was lying down.
An increased police presence in the city doesn’t guarantee that those circumstances won’t happen. However, Kelly said that the community wanting that presence is proof of the trust that people have in the agency to fairly serve East St. Louis residents.
“The way the Illinois State Police approaches policing (is that) we have a high degree of integrity, and that I think that’s why the local community is not just welcoming but wants us there more to help create the space for safety for them to build new neighborhoods, to build churches and other places of worship and to build businesses in a location (that) by all counts should be an ideal location for economic activity, but it is the public safety issues that have made it more challenging,” Kelly said. “This is just a piece of the puzzle for the community and we’re very honored to be part of that for them.”
DeAsia Paige is a reporter with the Belleville News-Democrat, a news partner of St. Louis Public Radio.