Police budget, salaries questioned by city

Cathy Decker/Staff reporter
Aledo Area Chamber of Commerce guest speaker on Tuesday, Feb. 9, 2010 was Aledo Police Chief J. Michael Sponsler.

Coffee shop talk in the city of Aledo has been all about three heavy hitter city jobs on the line, according to word on the street. The Aledo Area Chamber of Commerce former president John Hoscheidt asked one of these heavy hitters, J. Michael Sponsler, Aledo chief of police, to talk about what he has accomplished over the past four years that he has served the city of Aledo. He offered insight to Aledo Area Chamber of Commerce members Tuesday, Feb. 9.

Sponsler is proud of the job he has done and proud of the men he has working in the department. "I have worked very hard to professionalize the department and bring accountability to what we do. We are in the business of serving people and yes it is a business. As an administrator you have to look at it as a business," he told chamber members.

Sponsler has been police chief for the past four years. One of the things he is most proud of is how he has been able to retain younger police officers for extended periods. "We have hired some really talented officers that want to live in our community and raise their children here." He said that even though the Quad Cities is nearby, and most of those departments' salaries are $10,000 to $15,000 higher than Aledo's, it says a lot about our community to have these young officers move here, purchase homes here and raise their families here. "A couple of them have family ties to our community and that helps greatly," he said.

So how do you keep these young people satisfied?

Sponsler said it helps to have good equipment. "In my budget for 2007 I found a way to buy three new squad cars and pay for them over three years at the same price as buying one new squad car a year," he said. Two of the squad cars have mobile data terminals. In 2008 the department purchase new handguns for all the officers and over the last three years three rifles had been purchased.

He pointed to cooperation between the Mercer County Sheriff's department and Aledo police as another positive factor for his staff. A rapid response team has been formed, with officers at both the county and city level receiving training. "Sheriff Thompson and I both saw the need for a Rapid Response team," he said.

Sponsler said that both he and Mercer County Deputy Jeff Dale were both schooled to be trainers. "Twenty one officers and deputies in Mercer County have been trained," he said. The training was provided by Illinois State Police. "The team can be used for other incidents involving an active shooter," he said.

For more on this story, see the Feb. 17, 2010 issue of The Times Record.