Collinsville, IL – Along with our commitment to keeping Illinois’ roadways and communities safe, officials with the Illinois State Police (ISP) continue to work on ensuring we maintain a trusted and positive relationship with the citizens of Illinois. From sports and youth camps, to safety presentations and book readings, officers with the ISP continue to foster a strong, positive relationship with the communities we serve.
From September through November 2015, officers with the ISP participated in the East St. Louis Midnight Basketball League. Every Friday night ISP officers met with young men from the East St. Louis area to compete in a friendly game of basketball. The league provides the opportunity for the community to interact with ISP officers on a more personal level. Some of the ISP officers participating in the league are the same officers that are assigned to the Metro-East Police Assistance Team (MEPAT). The MEPAT was started in July 2014 in an effort to eradicate gang violence and activities in the Metro-East.
“Networking is very important for building strong community relations,” stated Sylvester Lee, President of the East St. Louis Male Involvement Program and one of the coordinators of the Midnight Basketball League. “The Midnight Basketball League provided the opportunity for young men in East St. Louis to meet one-on-one with police officers. It helped these young men realize that the officers are regular men just like them. It was quite a feeling seeing them interact with the State Police, and I believe it helped to develop a relationship we were hoping for,” continued Mr. Lee.
More recently, the ISP has participated in the Metro East Cadets of Policing (MECOP) program. Spearheaded by the Fairview Heights Police Department, the MECOP program is dedicated towards building an interest in a career in law enforcement among young men and women. MECOP strives to bring more diversity to those seeking a career in law enforcement, and it also works to promote positive interactions and understanding between police and the youth in the Metro-East.
Lieutenant Tim Tyler, ISP Districts 11 & 18 Commander, has been instrumental in building stronger community relations between the ISP and citizens in the Metro-East. His work has led him to being awarded the Extraordinary Leaders Impacting Today’s Environment (ELITE) award. The ELITE award was presented by the Center for Racial Harmony for Lieutenant Tyler’s extraordinary work in the communities in which he serves. Lieutenant Tyler was dedicated to the success of both the MECOP program and the Midnight Basketball League.
“I believe that positive police and community relations play a role in building safe communities,” stated Lieutenant Tyler. “Law enforcement needs to continue to recognize the importance of engaging the community outside of the police role. I continually stress the importance of community relations to all of the police officers I meet,” he continued.
ISP officers have also participated in book readings and career fairs at local elementary schools throughout the Metro-East. These officers continue to visit local schools to connect on a personal level to encourage more open dialog between the officers and students. Officers talk about who they are, where they come from, and what led them to become police officers. The students realize that some of the police officers come from similar backgrounds, have attended the same schools, and lived in the same neighborhoods as they do.
Future events in which the ISP will participate are the 44th Annual American Legion Youth Police Camp and the TeamIllinois Youth Police Camp. These programs are aimed at improving leadership, cultural diversity, personal development, physical fitness, and social and interpersonal skills. Both camps are staffed with police officers who act as mentors. The camps also provide an atmosphere that allows young men and women to approach and engage officers on a more personal level.
“The ISP is dedicated to keeping our communities safe,” stated Major Joseph Kollins, Region IV Commander. “The men and women of the ISP work day and night to ensure our communities and roadways are protected. Our patrol and investigative efforts can be self-rewarding, but some of our most rewarding experiences are created when we get personally involved with the communities in which we live and work.”