Police officers are equipped to deal with many difficult, dangerous situations. But there are some things we rely on other professionals to do — like keeping kids off the streets with after-school programs, provide coaching to at-risk families to prevent child abuse and neglect, or provide counseling to runaways and troubled kids who break the law.

But the inability of our state leaders to agree on a state budget has left kids and law enforcement, in the lurch. Last week, I testified before a committee of the Illinois House of Representatives to drive home the point that funding must be found immediately for key Department of Human Services programs like Teen REACH, Healthy Families/Parents Too Soon, Redeploy Illinois, and CCBYS. 

Without state funding, too many of the community-based agencies that provide these services have been forced to drastically reduce the number of children served—or close their doors completely. 

At this point, we will most certainly see long-term damage to our state’s human services infrastructure. 

We must stop inflicting irreparable harm on our communities over political disagreements. Springfield, it’s time to end this budget impasse and get working on restoring the damage.

Tom Weitzel, police chief

Riverside

Ed. Note: Tom Weitzel is an executive board member for Fight Crime Invest in Kids Illinois