Springfield, IL – Illinois lawmakers eliminated cash bail, qualified immunity, and collective bargaining rights for police among other dramatic measures when they jammed a controversial 764-page anti-police reform bill through the Illinois State House just moments before the end of the 101st General Assembly session at noon that would have killed it.
“I am extremely disappointed and saddened in the process, the lack of discussion with members of the law enforcement community and the ultimate outcome here today,” Illinois Sheriffs’ Association Executive Director Jim Kaitschuk told The Police Tribune.
“The changes made today, if signed by the Governor, make our communities less safe. We will, however, continue do all we are authorized to do to protect all communities,” Kaitschuk added.
The State Senate passed the measure just before 5 a.m. on Wednesday morning and immediately sent it to the House for approval, prompting outrage from GOP lawmakers and police officials.
Republican State Senator Jason Plummer expressed his frustration on his Facebook page in the early hours of Jan. 13.
“This is it. The criminal law overhaul bill. 764 pages,” Plummer wrote. “We received it at 3:04am. Debate started at 4:01am.”
“Who could’ve possibly read and reviewed this bill in less than an hour?” his post continued. “This issue deserves a thorough and serious discussion. Sadly, it was instead jammed through the legislature during the early morning hours of this lame duck session.”
“This is not how our system of government is supposed to work. These types of shenanigans do not lead to a healthy democracy and, in this instance, they make our law enforcement personnel, our families, and our communities less safe. It’s 4:49am. It just passed the Illinois State Senate,” Plummer lamented.
The lawmaker released a statement a few hours later that said Democrats had tried to disguise former House Bill 163 that presented a “real and present threat to the safety and wellbeing of our law enforcement personnel, our families and our communities” under a new bill number, House Bill 3653.
“This measure endangers the safety of our citizens and makes it harder for law enforcement to carry out their jobs,” Plummer wrote. “There’s no denying it, this measure will put dangerous and violent offenders back on the streets and threatens the safety of the public. It’s extreme and inexcusable.”
The Illinois Fraternal Order of Police (FOP) and the Illinois Sheriffs Association both came out against the controversial proposed police reform measures a week earlier.
The FOP said in a press release ahead of the vote that the proposed legislation “eliminates law enforcement as we know it from every community in the state.”
The police union said the reform bill specifically does away with qualified immunity for police officers, creates a “special class” of public employees in order to eliminate collective bargaining rights for officers that are currently guaranteed by the state, and allows officers to be punished or fired based on anonymous and unsubstantiated or unverifiable complaints.
The new law also requires that those unsubstantiated and unverified complaints shall “be kept to be used against officers forever, with no destruction and no limits on how they can be utilized to inflict harm on officers,” according to the state FOP.
The union said the legislation also kneecaps police budgets by prohibiting law enforcement agencies in Illinois from taking advantage of cost-saving federal surplus programs, adds costs for law enforcement officers by increasing initial and ongoing educational requirements without funding them, and defunds any police department that doesn’t comply with the new police reform law 100 percent.
HB3653 also eliminated cash bail and enacted multiple benefits for felons, according to the FOP.
Kaitschuk sent a letter to sheriff’s departments across the state on Jan. 6 warning that if the proposed police reform bill passed, “it might as well be a crime to be a law enforcement officer in Illinois,” WMBD reported.
Peoria County Sheriff Brian Asbell said his biggest concern was the fact the new legislation would do away with cash bail while the county lacked the resources to provide alternatives for individuals with mental health issues that had landed them behind bars.
“It sounds good on paper, but the reality of it is, there’s going to be some damage,” Sheriff Asbell explained to WMBD.
“Not that I want the jail to be a de facto mental health center, but that’s all we have,” the sheriff said. “We have very limited resources and Peoria’s no different than so many other communities in Illinois, [and] I’d rather these individuals be here so they don’t harm themselves, don’t harm other people, don’t get into any more criminal situations, and we can help manage this.”
“We need to build these infrastructures. You can’t do so many of these reform measures they’re asking, because it will complicate that,” he added.
Sheriff Asbell said that while he believed the new law would discourage candidates from applying for jobs in law enforcement in the state, there were going to be even bigger consequences for the state financially, WMBD reported.
“Unfortunately, this is going to, I believe, cause businesses to leave the state, which will result in more citizens leaving the state, tax revenues will go down, and those who are left will have to pay more,” the sheriff warned.
He said he is an advocate of reform and supported the bill’s ban on chokeholds, but complained that lawmakers hadn’t even consulted law enforcement when drafting the new legislation, WMBD reported.
HB 3653 also “prohibits use of force in almost all situations, and makes officers criminally liable for virtually any use of force” and “removes prohibitions against obstructing police officers,” and charges officers with the class 3 felony of Official Misconduct “for banal and incidental issues,” according to the FOP’s press release.
“While I wish I could say that I am shocked and dismayed that my Democrat colleagues would think this is how reform proposals should be handled in this chamber, I know better,” Plummer’s statement read. “This is business as usual to push bad and dangerous legislation in the 11th hour, without public input or adequate time to fully vet and understand the full consequences of this proposal.”
“This is not how our system of government is supposed to work. These types of shenanigans do not lead to a healthy democracy and, in this instance, they make our law enforcement personnel, our families, and our communities less safe,” the senator added.