Illinois Conservation Police patrolling waters, even with no budget


CORDOVA, Ill. (KWQC) – Police on land and water have been busy already this holiday weekend. Two water rescues kept first responders out on the Mississippi Friday. A rescue north of Cordova, another south of Davenport.
These rescues are happening even though Illinois doesn’t have a budget in place to pay its conservation police.

For those with a boat, Independence Day is a time to unstrap the boat. Drop it in the water, and power off to a cruise, or watch fireworks from the deck.

It’s also a busy time for law enforcement, especially when the forecast looks good.

“Some of our Fourth of July holidays have really been hampered by weather, but it looks like this is going to be a nice weather Fourth of July for once, sometimes they run smoothly where everybody is in compliance and our safe boaters,” says Illinois Conservation Police officer Ron Palumbo.

He says there are always cases to handle out on the river.

“Most of the time there are a few, we have to make arrests for careless or reckless operation, operating under the influence of alcohol or drugs just to keep the waterways safe for everyone else,” says Palumbo.

They’re investigating a speedboat crash from Friday afternoon. A Coal Valley man flipped his boat and got thrown into the water. He’s ok, but his boat sank. The case is still under investigation.

“They try to make it so there’s one (officer) per county, we’re not quite there yet, but we’re close,” says Palumbo.

While these officers will continue to do their work this weekend as normal, things are far from normal in Illinois. There is no budget, there are questions about when these officers and other state employees will be paid, there’s also questions over how many officers will be out on the water, in the future. The budget that did get vetoed cut the Conservation Police budget by three million. The agency says it will have to cut some officers to meet that cut.

“We are the primary law enforcement on the waterways so we will be doing the boat accident just like a state trooper would be doing a traffic crash report on the highway,” says Palumbo.

He says they’ll concentrate on fireworks Friday.

“Supposed to be security to prevent boats from getting too close to where they’re shooting off the fireworks.”

And they’ll be out the rest of the weekend trying to keep the river safe for boaters. Even as lawmakers squabble over the proper size of these water going police officers.

Officers will be checking for PFD’s, proper safety equipment, and drunk boaters. Illinois is currently headed to court to try to get a court order to pay its employees even without a budget.

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