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Bill Would Give State Lawmakers The Power To Arrest Citizens

Springfield, IL – An Illinois State Representative has proposed legislation that would give members of the General Assembly to arrest and detain people as if they were law enforcement officers.

Illinois State Representative Curtis J. Tarver II, a Democrat, introduced House Bill 724 on Feb. 8, according to the legislative status report.

The synopsis of HB 0724 said the measure provides requirements for assembly members to be “conservators of the peace” and gives them police powers.

It also changes the Illinois Police Training Act to suit the new legislation.

“After receiving a certificate attesting to the successful completion of a training course administered by the Illinois Law Enforcement Training Standards Board as required under Section 10.5 of the Illinois Police Training Act, all member of the General Assembly shall be conservators of the peace,” the propose legislation read.

“Those persons shall have the power (i) to arrest or cause to be arrested, with or without process, all person who break the peace or are found violating any municipal ordinance or any criminal law of the State,” the text of HB 0724 read.

The proposed measure also allows state assembly members “to commit arrested persons for examination” and “detain arrested persons in custody over night or Sunday in any safe place or until they can be brought before a proper court.”

The legislation does not explain by what standards lawmakers would determine someone needs to be committed, nor did it specify where and under what circumstances an elected official could detain a citizen overnight.

HB 724 also gives all member of the General Assembly “all other powers as conservators of the peace prescribed by State and corporate authorities.”

The legislation would amend the Illinois Police Training Act to create a “conservators of the peace” training course that includes the designated lawmakers.

Republican Illinois State Representative C.D. Davidsmeyer told the Journal Courier that the legislation proposed by Tarver undercuts police reform legislation that was passed during January’s lame-duck session.

Davidsmeyer said that giving lawmakers police powers undercuts trained law enforcement officers who have extensive training and experience in the field.

In fact, he said the legislation gives lawmakers more powers than law enforcement officers, according to the Journal Courier.

“Under the new reform bill, even police can’t contain someone unless it’s an immediate threat,” Davidsmeyer explained.

He called Tarver’s proposed bill “hypocritical,” the Journal Courier reported.

Davidsmeyer said the proposed bill would hold trained law enforcement officers to a higher standard than untrained legislators when it came down to making an arrest.

“The only training lawmakers have is being on the ballot and being elected,” he told the Journal Courier.

The GOP lawmaker said that the bill also opened up a host of additional questions that included what insurance would be required for a lawmaker to start arresting people.

He also questioned what guidelines lawmakers would have to follow in questioning and detaining someone, and questioned where the detained person would be held, the Journal Courier reported.

“There’s just a ton that goes into this,” Davidsmeyer said.

The Illinois Sheriffs’ Association (ISA) told The Police Tribune they also had serious concerns about the proposed legislation.

“HB 724 would certainly seem to blur the line between the Legislative and Executive branches of government to now allow members of the General Assembly to have enforcement powers,” ISA President Jim Kaitschuk said. “This bill seems to fly in the face of requirements for law enforcement, especially at a time when police are expected to receive even more training than the currently required 560 hours from the basic law enforcement academy and the annual mandated training that we receive.”

“In addition, members of the General Assembly maintain immunity while performing their duties,” Kaitschuk continued. “Would they maintain their immunity [under HB 724]?”

Jacksonville Police Chief Adam Mefford told the Journal Courier he also had reservations about the manner in which the proposed bill would blur the lines between law enforcement and lawmakers.

“What’s concerning to me if we’re supposed to have separation of powers,” Chief Mefford explained. “It doesn’t look like a very good idea to me.”

He said that giving legislators police powers on top of the other recently-passed police reform legislation could jeopardize public safety, the Journal Courier reported.

“My job is to respond to 911 calls and, when we show up, we provide a quality of service to the community,” Chief Mefford said.

He said he doesn’t get political unless the proposed law would put public safety at risk, the Journal Courier reported.

“I don’t get into the political jargon,” the police chief said. “But I do speak up when it comes to protecting the citizens of this community.”

The Police Tribune repeatedly reached out to the author of the legislation to find out why he thought members of the Illinois General Assembly needed police powers but Tarver’s office has not provided a response.

The Journal Courier also reported that Tarver refused to return calls and email requests for information and comment on HB 724.

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Written by
Sandy Malone

Managing Editor - Twitter/@SandyMalone_ - Prior to joining The Police Tribune, Sandy wrote the Politics.Net column for the Wall Street Journal and was managing editor of Campaigns & Elections magazine. More recently, she was an internationally-syndicated columnist for Conde Nast (BRIDES), The Huffington Post, and Monsters and Critics. Sandy is married to a retired police captain and former SWAT commander.

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