Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis speaks to police officers about protecting law and order on Monday in Staten Island, part of a tour that included a stop in Elmhurst. DeSantis, a Republican, is expected by many to announce his candidacy for president in the coming weeks or months. (Credit: Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis continued his crusade against the proverbial wokeness infiltrating local governments across the country by taking aim at Illinois and Chicago during his visit to Elmhurst on Monday. 

During the invite-only event at the Knights of Columbus hall, DeSantis said Chicago and the state was faced with a crime problem because of “woke” policies and an active effort to “defund the police.” 

“I know they slashed police spending for a while here in Illinois and in Chicago,” DeSantis said to the crowd. “We said that that’s totally unacceptable in Florida and yes, we were not going to do that at the state level, of course.”

But a look at police budgets in Illinois, Chicago and two other large cities in the state show funding for police has only grown since 2020. During the last three years, state police funding is up 15%; Chicago police funding is up 11%; Aurora police funding is up 17% and Joliet police funding is up 2%. 

Gov. J.B. Pritzker said at an unrelated news conference on Tuesday that he didn’t watch the speech but that didn’t stop him from taking his own shots at the Florida governor. 

“He tries to use this word ‘woke’ to describe everything,” Pritzker said. “He doesn’t even know what the word means and he has no definition of it — it’s just anything he doesn’t like is ‘wokeism.’” 

Pritzker took issue with the notion that Illinois has lost respect for police officers and said he believed police officers are underpaid, just like teachers.

“We are going to continue to do what’s right for law enforcement. I know there are people who want to make a false argument that there is not a lot of support for law enforcement,” Pritzker said. “I’m not somebody who has said ‘defund the police’ I am somebody who says fund the police.”

Funding for the Illinois State Police grew 15%, from $690.95 million in 2020 to $795.67 million in 2023. The budget for state police has grown steadily over the past five years and is up more than 20% since 2019. 

Pritzker went on to say the state needs to hire more police but said those officers who aren’t doing it right “shouldn’t be in the profession that’s for sure and they should be held accountable.”

Alex Gough, a spokesman for the governor’s office, said Prizker’s efforts to increase the number of police on the streets is well documented. 

“Since 2019, the state has hired 417 new troopers, invested in modernized technology and facilities to prevent criminal activity and solve crimes,” Gough told the Illinois Answers Project. “Insinuating that the state is involved in an effort to defund the police would be patently false.”

Investment has come in the form of a new forensic lab in Decatur soon to open as well as two new cadet classes in the governor’s proposed 2024 budget that would result in 200 new troopers. 

The Chicago Police Department’s budget grew nearly 11% from $1.76 billion in 2020 to $1.94 billion in 2023. 

The mayor’s office declined to comment. 

The budget of police departments have also grown in the state’s second and third largest cities. 

In Aurora, the police budget grew nearly 17%, from $76.71 million in 2020 to $89.65 million in 2023. 

The police budget in Joliet had a marginal growth of just 2% from $60.7 million in 2020 to $62.37 million in 2023. 

DeSantis  claimed the crime rate in the overall state of Florida was significantly lower than Chicago and other major Democratic-run cities in the country. The reason, he declared, was the state’s refusal to bend to “woke” policies. 

But the contrast between an entire state and a single city like Chicago isn’t exactly a direct comparison. 

The University of Wisconsin's Population Health Institute compiles violent crime data — such as rape, homicide, robbery and aggravated assault — from states and counties across the country. Its data presents a different outlook. 

In 2022, there were 403 violent crimes reported per 100,000 people in Illinois which is less than the 484 crimes reported per 100,000 people in Florida, according to the data. Cook County also had lower violent crime rates than some of Florida’s more populous counties. 

Cook County’s 620 reported violent crimes per 100,000 was less than Duval County’s  (Jacksonville) 654 per 100,000 or Orange County’s (Orlando) 648 per 100,000.

Manny Ramos is a former solutions and accountability reporter at the Illinois Answers Project.