Dempsey Resignation From PTI Fails To Ease Concerns

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On September 6, 2007, University of Illinois officials severed
their ties with Tom Dempsey, the director of the
school’s Police Training Institute (PTI) who has been under
scrutiny for his work with Blackwater USA, a controversial
military contractor.
Local residents first learned, from an exclusive Chicago
Tribune article on July 31, 2007, that Tom Dempsey, Director
of PTI, had signed a “memorandum of understanding”
(MOU) with Blackwater to exchange personnel and students,
as well as collaborate on special projects for five years. Meanwhile,
during his summer vacation, Dempsey worked for
Blackwater on drug enforcement training in Afghanistan.
Prior to Dempsey signing the UI memorandum on May 8,
2007, Blackwater entered into an agreement to lease a Mount
Carroll, IL firearms training facility, for the duration of the
training year. According to Jo Daviess County Recorder
records, First Tactical Site, Inc. is the “owner of record” of the
11311 S. Skunk Hollow Rd site at the time of the lease.
David H. Wittrock, 1880 E. 6000N Rd., Bourbonnais, IL
and Jeffrey Blomsness, 15 Willow Bay Dr., South Barrington,
IL are listed as First Tactical Site, Inc. secretary and president
respectively, with the Illinois Secretary of State’s office. An
experienced law enforcement officer, David Wittrock is an
adjunct staff member at PTI and instructs at the Military
Sealift Command’s Small Arms Program. While president of
several Illinois corporations, including North American Midway
Entertainment-All-Star Amusement, Inc., Blomsness
contributed to Swift Boat Veterans and POWS for Truth and
the Henry J. Hyde for Congress Committee.
For years, PTI instructors and other trainers supported
law enforcement, ‘military operations,’ and security personnel
at ‘the site.’ “The Site staff has experience teaching a
wide variety of both domestic and foreign firearms systems.
We also offer instructor development and continuing
education certifications. We have extensive experience
working with and training armed professionals from
across the globe” (
However, since Blackwater maintains strict employee confidentiality,
it is unknown if staff members from the PTI will
continue training duties at the Mt. Carroll, IL site.
Unbeknownst to many, the Blackwater agreement is in
line with a currently active agreement signed in October
2006, between PTI and Triple Canopy (TC), another private
paramilitary company. It is interesting to note that the
UI or PTI press office reported neither agreement, hence
the story lay “buried” for months.
The Police Training Institute was established in 1955 by
the Illinois General Assembly to offer basic law enforcement
courses and standardize and upgrade police training.
Today, the institute offers short courses, conferences, institutes,
training curricula, consultant services for police
departments and others enforcement agencies throughout
the State of Illinois and beyond.
The PTI in Champaign, IL is one of the largest facilities for
training would-be law enforcement and corrections officers in
the country. Between 2002 and 2005, PTI’s basic law enforcement
(BLE) training enrollment exploded, increasing by 100%.
Over its nearly 50-year-history, PTI programs have trained
an estimated 100,000 law enforcement officers statewide.
The Institute provides a basic 12-week (480-hour) residential
training program eight times a year. This program alone trains
4,000 recruits, annually. In addition, there is an advanced
master firearms instructor program and elective courses,
which include a 16-hour police Spanish course, a 4-hour
taser certification, a 40 hour juvenile specialist certification,
the Champaign County Citizen Police Academy, and an
annual fitness and skills challenge program.
PTI instruction is spread among four campuses: the Tactical
Training Center, with five firing ranges, at 609 1/2 E. Curtis Rd;
the Willard Aviation Training Center with classrooms, dispatch
center, and traffic crash facility; the Experiential Training Center
near Homer, IL, with a seven-acre facility providing a climbing
wall and high ropes center, along with a 7,500 square foot
training building and 4,000 square foot indoor training arena
for scenario training; and, the Administration and Training
Center (ATC) located at 1004 S. Fourth St., Champaign.
To facilitate collaboration, the PTI and other university
departments conduct joint research on training and law
enforcement related issues, such as human factors psychology,
quantitative analysis of pursuit data, development
of police facilitators, and stress training. Dempsey, confirms
that “We have also executed MOUs with several private
sector researchers.” (
Former Navy Seals established Blackwater USA (BW) in
1996, with the expressed intent of becoming a premier international
contracting security company and domestic law
enforcement training organization. One decade later, BW is
the most powerful private paramilitary army in the world. It’s
founder, Eric Pince, who comes from a super-rich Western
Michigan family, funds a variety of rightwing and religious
causes, according to a review of Freiheit Foundation grants.
Blackwater boasts 20,000 soldiers ready for combat, a fleet
of twenty aircraft, including helicopter gun ships, a precision
parachute drop team, and a domestic law enforcement and
private security consulting business, committed in money and
prestige to the training of thousands of domestic and international
law enforcement personnel, as well as private citizens.
On the international front, recall for a moment the muscled
wall of men in mirrored sunglasses, bristling with firepower,
guarding the VIP’s in Iraq. Tragically, after four BW
contractors were dragged through the streets of Fallujah, on
March 31, 2004, the U.S. Marines were ordered to lay siege to
the city in retaliation and the flames rapidly spread the insurgency
across Iraq.
In August 2005, Blackwater military marching boots
pounded on domestic Southern soil, among the first on the
ground after Hurricane Katrina hammered the Gulf Coast.
When citizens asked, “Where are the marines?” New
Orleans’ weary residents were instead greeted by a for-profit
“privatized army.”
Around the world, the company performs hundreds of
million of dollars in U. S. contracts, allegedly utilizing third
world nationals’ “coalition of the billing,” along with “black”
contracts withheld from public view. More recently, it has
begun focused marketing of security expertise to multinational
corporations. The company has a network of connections
to multiple U. S. defense contractors and intelligence
sectors. The extent of their domestic business is
under reported. Initially a training site for SWAT teams, BW
has leveraged that business into a national network of law
enforcement and arms dealer contacts.
Blackwater USA is simply an example of the growing
neoliberal trend toward privatizing the public sphere.
According to Arthur Jones and Robin Wiseman, international
human rights lawyers, “The legal vacuum in which private
security firms have been operating abroad will now be
accorded to them at home in the U.S. The program, as outlined
by Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff, aims
to insert private business into the public trust and to diminish
the role of police in public safety. It strips police budgets,
while offering both money and legal immunity to private
security and technology firms. Just as the American approach
is a ‘war on terror’ emphasizing the use of military means, the
same philosophy or bundle of motives has also attached to
the fight against terrorism at home.”
About one hundred and forty miles from Chicago, on an
eighty-acre isolated site near Mt. Carroll, IL, Blackwater is
fashioning a major law enforcement and security training
facility. The Skunk Hollow Rd. property comes with a climbing
and rappelling wall as well as several firing ranges.
Seemingly proud of the Blackwater accomplishment,
Annie Tyrell, a BW spokeswoman publicly asserted in a
Chicago television interview with ABC, “You have to go five
states away to find a training facility anything like this.” (May
7, 2007) And although classes are not certified by the Illinoois
Law Enforcement Training and Standards Board, police
departments and individual officers from across the country
still attend the Center’s training program.
For only $950 per person (lunch included), Illinois Special
Response Team members may enroll in the SWAT team
tactics class. Topics covered by the course include firearm
skills for the tactical officer, high risks warrant service,
rapid deployment, barricaded suspects, hostage rescues,
sniper team roles, and stealth entry techniques.
At their BW (North) facility, training is also provided for
Illinois and other security guards, private investigators,
armored car personnel, and personal protection specialists.
In their open enrollment classes, instruction is offered in
introductory and basic pistol, advanced handgun skills,
tactical pistol I and II, and basic shotgun.
As private security guards have outnumbered police officers
since the 1980s, there is no shortage of potential students. Private-
sector security is expanding into the legal territory of complex
criminal investigations and patrols of downtown districts
and residential neighborhoods that used to be the province of
law enforcement agencies alone. As a consequence, there is a
growing concern among members of these communities that
private security companies are replacing certified police officers,
without concomitant oversight and liability.
An Illinois law enforcement graduate, wanting to earn
“serious money,” can apply for open enrollment in the Blackwater
Academy. For approximately $20,000 cash, the curriculum ranges from hand-to-hand combat (executive course) to precision rifle marksmanship.
Few, if any, women have graduated from the security-consulting wing of BW, as “strength
requirements” for admission into the program discourage potential female participation in the
‘War on Terror.’
Training as a private enforcement officer is a potentially lucrative venture. For comparison
sake: a contractor in Iraq earns approximately $135,000 per year (same as a two star general);
an American soldier typically pockets $38,000/year (counting benefits); and, a newly hired UI
police person starts at approximately $42,000 per year.
The new rules of international law enforcement—a blending of police work, security
consulting, and military engagement—have forced personnel departments to re-write their
traditional job descriptions. This process, for example, can enable an Illinois police officer to
request a year sabbatical to work for a large defense contractor in Iraq or Afghanistan; or, a
security consultant in Iraq may opt to work for a law enforcement-training academy in Illinois.
Blackwater has a database of thousands of former police and military officers for
potential security and law enforcement deployment.
With BW North’s offering open enrollments, a “wannabe” student may still try to pre-position
himself/herself for acceptance into a law enforcement career by enrolling in basic courses,
possibly training with an off-duty Illinois officer, under the watchful eye of a BW contractor.
Until recently, paramilitary contractors operated free from public scrutiny or accountability.
They are largely private companies, who don’t publicize their businesses. Yet, media accounts
present a peek into the their secret realm. Reports link Blackwater, for example, to killing of
innocent Iraq civilians (Los Angeles Times, December 4, 2005), firing on coalition troops (NBC,
Aug. 11, 2007), hiring ex-Pinochet Chilean mercenaries for duties in Iraq (The Guardian, May
5, 2004); and, Triple Canopy to killing Iraqi civilians (New York Times, Nov. 17, 2006), hiring
of Latin American mercenaries for Iraq (Christian Science Monitor, Mar. 3, 2005); and, training
Latin American mercenaries for “counter insurgency” (La Tribuna, Sept. 2005).
Of the sixty publicly available Iraq contracts examined by Laura Dickinson, Professor at
the University of Connecticut School of Law, none contains specific provisions requiring
contractors to respect human rights, or to anticorruption or transparency norms. “There is
significant concern in the contracts’ lack of basic, much less adequate, human rights protections
or training requirements.”
With the ‘War on Terror’ a constant domestic topic, apprehension is, for good reason, high.
The intensification of private policing versus state maintained “law and order,” the danger of
civil liberties violations given the Bush administration’s “warrant-less spying,” and the increasing
incarceration and detention of undocumented immigrants are being decried daily in communities
across the nation.
Just as the ‘War on Drugs’ created massive corporate profits, so the ‘War on Terror’ may
prove an even more profitable and sustainable venture. In a permanent “state of war,” the real
question is “where will the ethical lines be drawn?”
Comments from the UI administration are welcome for publication in the Public i.

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