Metro-East News

JB Pritzker wants Brendan Kelly to take over running the Illinois State Police

St. Clair County State’s Attorney Brendan Kelly is set to have a new job.

Gov. J.B. Pritzker is nominating Kelly to be director of the Illinois State Police, the administration confirmed to the Belleville News-Democrat.

Kelly, who has been state’s attorney since 2010, ran for Congress in this November 2018. Kelly, of Swansea, lost to incumbent U.S. Rep. Mike Bost, R-Murphysboro, and was a top Democratic recruit.

During Kelly’s run, he received support from statewide officials, Pritzker, U.S. Rep. John Lewis, D-Georgia, and former Vice President Joe Biden, among others. A move up to running a statewide agency could help raise his profile.

Kelly, 42, said he doesn’t see another run for office anytime soon.

“I’ve been on the ballot quite a few times, and I’ve been lucky and grateful to have the support of the public in my job as state’s attorney and in other previous elections. You win some, you lose some. I do not see an election anytime in my near future,” Kelly said. “I like working with law enforcement, I like working with criminal justice issues and I’m fully committed to this job as long as it makes sense and the people will have me.”

St. Clair County State’s Attorney Brendan Kelly. Zia Nizami News-Democrat

At a news conference in Chicago on Tuesday morning, Pritzker was asked if Kelly indicated he would run for Congress again.

“He has committed to be the director of our state police and he’ll be a terrific one,” Pritzker said.

During a tour around the state in December, which included a stop in Caseyville, Pritzker was asked about the possibility of Kelly joining his administration.

“We think the world of Brendan Kelly,” Pritzker said. “He’s done a great job as state’s attorney here, he was a great candidate. He’s certainly somebody we think highly of.”

Kelly’s nomination needs to be approved by the Democratically controlled state Senate. A timeline on when that happens has yet to be released.

If confirmed, he would become the third prosecutor in the state to run the State Police, said Jordan Abudayyeh, the press secretary for Pritzker.

Kelly is leaving a job that pays $164,500, according to the latest available figures, for a statewide job that pays $152,451, which is an amount after agency director salaries were increased.

Pritzker signed 15 percent salary increases for agency director positions in order to help attract more talent to the state government.

Kelly said he applied and committed to the job before the pay raises went into place.

“It wasn’t a factor,” Kelly said. “My family and I believe in public service.”

Kelly was re-elected as state’s attorney in November 2016. With less than two years left on Kelly’s term, St. Clair County Board Chairman Mark Kern will have to appoint someone to serve out Kelly’s unfinished term. The appointment will need to be approved by the county board.

Kelly would replace Leo Schmitz, who served as State Police director under former Gov. Bruce Rauner.

Kelly will fight to add more state police officers

Kelly over the years has called on governors of both major parties to re-establish the State Police’s public integrity unit, and to increase the funding for additional cadet classes.

He said he will continue to fight for more manpower in the agency.

“This governor and his team are very serious about governing and very serious about public safety,” Kelly said. “There’s already ongoing conversations about how do we confront the challenges we have about forensics and other manpower issues. And I’m very excited to be able to serve with the men and women of the state police and this team, which is trying to reach out to both sides of the aisle … to do the work hard work of governing and there’s nothing more important for government to do then to make sure we provide for justice and safety and the Illinois state police is at the heart of that in this state.”

Part of that manpower would be to help process and analyze forensics evidence in a timely manner, which the agency does for police agencies around the state.

“What we do know it’s taking too long, and that’s got to be a top priority,” Kelly said.

During Kelly’s tenure as state’s attorney, violent crime in the county has fallen by 41 percent. He established a violent crimes unit, a special victims unit and children’s justice division, and worked to increase training standards for law enforcement on sexual assault cases and on general investigations.

His office worked closely with the state police on public corruption cases, drug task forces, use of force reviews and concealed-carry training standards enforcements.

“I’m very proud of all the people who worked very hard in my office to make a difference, and now I get to go from working with one amazing group of people to another amazing great group of people,” Kelly said.

Joseph Bustos is the state affairs and politics reporter for the Belleville News-Democrat, where he strives to hold elected officials accountable and provide context to decisions they make. He has won multiple awards from the Illinois Press Association for coverage of sales tax referenda.