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Centralia police lieutenant speaks at Rotary Club

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On December 6, Lt. Steve Whritenour, operations commander for the Centralia Police Department, addressed the Centralia Rotary Club on his history in law enforcement and current operations of the Department.

He interned at the Centralia Police Department in 1993 which encouraged him to seek a career in law enforcement. He attended Kaskaskia College in the Criminal Justice program. He went on to serve as a police officer in Central City, Sandoval, Keyesport and the Marion County Sheriff’s Department before coming to Centralia in 2004. He was named the department’s field training officer in 2007 and was promoted to patrol sergeant in 2017. He was later transferred to the administrative sergeant position in 2020. He was promoted to lieutenant in 2021 with administrative duties and later to his current position as operations commander.

Chief Chris Locke was appointed chief of police in 2022 with a comprehensive background and many years of service in law enforcement. He reorganized the Department by rearranging the personnel, bringing it up to 2023 standards. The Department has 26 commissioned police officers and 7 civilian support staff. The staff includes two canine officers that can have daily coverage of the community and two school resource officers serving at the Centralia High School and the Centralia City School System. The Department has 13 squad cars which average 30,000 miles per year that also have considerable hours of stationary idling time which is wearing on the units. It remains a difficult task to keep all the fleet in operating order.

Lt. Whritenour provided a number of statistics, including over 22,000 calls per year that have resulted in the decrease of most crime statistics. He also cited traffic tickets and verbal traffic warnings increasing, resulting in a decrease in traffic accidents and having a positive impact on the community. However, scam violations have increased over the past year.

Chief Locke’s reorganization of the Department included updating the officers’ radios; many were from 2005 and were nearing 20 years old. These radios were analog based and needed to be replaced with digital radios. The in-car computers were 10 – 14 years old and were replaced last month with upgraded models that are much more efficient. The new computer system will automatically update procedures to be in accordance with changes of State law. The Department has replaced one squad car this year and has the approval to replace two more in this coming year.

Maintaining a full staff is becoming increasingly difficult since fewer potential recruits are showing up for testing and the Department is insistent on maintaining the standards for hiring new staff. Currently, there are two recruit officers in the Police Academy and two more due to report in January. The Academy course is 16 weeks long with 12 weeks of orientation training required at the Centralia Police Department under the supervision of an experienced officer.

There were challenges of incorporating the Illinois Safety Act within the Centralia Police Department. Each county in the state interprets the law slightly differently. Since Centralia resides in Marion and Clinton Counties, problems arose about the retention policy of arrestees between the counties. This was finally resolved for a standard policy for Centralia by meetings with both the Marion and Clinton County States Attorneys.

As the Department Operations Officer, Lt. Whritenour stated in conclusion that he tries to keep an upbeat attitude around the staff to build trust between the younger officers and aging staff. He feels that the Centralia Police Department is positioned to provide excellent service to the Centralia community.

Pictured above is Lt. Steve Whritenour



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