Message from the Director

The Illinois State Police continues to rebuild its ranks. In April 2024, I swore in my 512th trooper. I am grateful for the 512 brave souls who stepped forward to put on the ISP uniform during the past five years, and for every officer who has ever served ISP.

ISP is at a historic and critical moment, a moment where the strengths and values of ISP are being called upon once again to serve the people of Illinois.

To be at the birth of a new class of troopers, at the beginning of what will no doubt be new, incredible chapters in the annals of the Illinois State Police, to be at the beginning of a trooper’s watch is especially poignant, and it is a joyful moment each trooper and all who love them. It is such a deeply personal honor for me to be able administer the oath, which is a searing reminder that it is a sacred responsibility that troopers assume and a sacred oath, the oath of an Illinois State Police officer, an oath to the constitution of the United States of America.

I’ve recounted the times I’ve personally sworn an oath to uphold the constitution and came up with at least 12. Those oaths, and the special oath each trooper speaks, are uniquely American oaths. The oath each trooper takes is not to a news channel, or blog, Facebook page, Instagram, union, club, secret society, or political party. The oath is not to a troop, or zone, or unit, or region of the state. The oath taken is not to a king, or lord, or some earthly master, nor is it an oath to a president or a governor, or the director. The trooper’s oath and loyalty are to something much more important. A trooper’s loyalty is to the ideals and principles of the Illinois State Police- integrity, service, and pride. The oath requires each trooper to seek the facts, no matter where it may take them, and make decisions based on facts, not habit, or ease. The oath is to uphold the constitution of the United States of America. A trooper’s oath and loyalty are to the law and the principle that no one is above or below the law. That’s why the ISP oath must be a guide on, a North Star at all times. And anyone who says differently is not being loyal to the Illinois State Police or loyal to our troopers.

The ISP uniform is not the most important thing that makes the ISP different. The most important distinction is our value of integrity, a pride- not arrogance- but a righteous pride, that our agency holds ourselves to higher ethical standard. And after taking the ISP oath, each trooper must hold themselves to a higher standard. When a trooper takes the oath, they take on not only those who have no respect for the law, they take on the responsibility of building respect for the law.

That’s the essence of the Peelian principles of policing adhered to by my ancestors in law enforcement and by all predecessors in the ISP- “the police are the public and the public are the police.”

The American public is always evolving so they expect us to evolve. When ISP started over 100 years ago, there were more people riding horses than cars. In December 2023, the national highway transportation safety administration began the process to require all new cars to have impaired driving prevention tech installed in EVERY new car. In California, driverless Ubers are giving citizens a safe ride to their destination. Like the end of the horse age, a new day is coming and faster than we can imagine. Per capita traffic deaths are continuing from their peak in the 1960s. However, overdose deaths and gun deaths have now surpassed traffic deaths.

What does that mean for us, for ISP? It means our future will be a bit less about “traffic” and more about “trafficking”- gun trafficking, drug trafficking, and human trafficking. So, the changes we’ve made as an organization to prepare us for this breathtaking evolution on the horizon are all aimed at one thing- fighting crime. In other words our policy is “Let the police be the police. Let the ISP be the ISP.”

And in the midst of perhaps the most challenging period in law enforcement in this generation, and perhaps generations before and hence, there is no reason to flinch or falter. Indeed, this is the time when that which is most true and good and right about the Illinois State Police can shine brightest to those around us. A trooper need look no farther than the decades old oath of an officer that they take, the oath they speak and live, for that bright light.

As in previous periods of ISP history, the tide of violence must be confronted. Like those before, we must rise to meet it and turn the tide. For ISP, our battle is being fought and has always been fought on many fronts, from one end of the state to the other. Fighting crime is why the ISP exists.

The oath of an Illinois State Police officer contains what’s needed to meet the moment:

“…to be steadfast against evil…and… never compromise with crime…”

Now that oath is a high standard, but it is critical to this state, to this country, and to our fellow human beings. Because while these are divisive times, history has repeatedly shown that people live best when they live in freedom, but there is no freedom without the law and there is no law without law enforcement. There is no real future for the human race, no chance to move forward past the divisions of our time, no chance to bind these wounds or emerge stronger without people like you stepping forward and standing against the dark forces of the world to ensure that future.

Our troopers not only speak the oath, they act. They commit their lives to this most noble of efforts, and by taking the oath, they are saying to the world loud and clear:

"I am an Illinois state police officer and I’m here to serve, with integrity and with pride."

Thank God for people like our Illinois State Police officers and the friends and family and loved ones who are willing to take on that burden and do that sacred work as we rebuild the Illinois State Police, together, for our second century.

With each new trooper, we look forward to a long and successful watch done with integrity, service, and pride. I tell each trooper, never forget, your most powerful weapons as Illinois State police officers are not your tasers, or your badges or your firearms, but your hearts, your minds, and your souls, and there will be no holding you back!

--Director Brendan F. Kelly