Springfield, IL – Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker said he was taking a step toward “dismantling systemic racism” when he signed a police reform bill into law on Monday, making Illinois the first state to eliminate cash bail and making it illegal for a police officer to forget to turn on their bodycam.
“One that marks a transformative step in moving Illinois forward is Illinois’ effort to lead the country in dismantling systemic racism,” Pritzker said in remarks when he signed the criminal justice reform bill on Feb. 22, WGN reported.
While the Black Caucus which authored the bill celebrated the success of the law they said was created to address a lack of police accountability and inequities in law enforcement, others worried that the measures gave criminals an upper hand on police.
“The Governor’s support of House Bill 3653 is an insult to our first responders, law enforcement and the law-abiding citizens of Illinois who want to live free of violence and destruction from the criminal element,” Illinois House Republican Leader Jim Durkin said. “It’s clear that Governor Pritzker does not understand this bill and what it means to our criminal justice system. Illinois and its citizens will not be safer because of this bill.”
Pritzker argued that because the bill included additional funding for police training, it would actually make Illinois communities safer, WGN reported.
“Opponents of this law don’t want any change, don’t believe there is injustice in the system and are praying upon fear about change to lie and fearmonger in defense of the status quo,” the governor said.
But police advocates said the mandated use of bodycams in the new law created a liability for police officers responding to emergency situations, WGN reported.
“There is a concern that this bill establishes a new criminal penalty for police officers who do not use their body cameras when required by law,” Republican Illinois State Representative Patrick Windhorst said. “I believe that this bill actually makes us as a state, the public less safe.”
Illinois lawmakers jammed the controversial 764-page anti-police reform bill through the Illinois State House just moments before the end of the 101st General Assembly session on Jan. 13 that would have killed it.
House Bill 3653 eliminated cash bail,, and collective bargaining rights for police among other dramatic measures.
A provision that did away with qualified immunity for individual police officers, potentially exposing them to civil lawsuits, was eliminated before Pritzker signed the bill into law, WTVO reported.
“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 when the legislation passed the State House.
“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 Illinois Fraternal Order of Police (FOP) and the Illinois Sheriffs Association both came out against the controversial proposed police reform measures a week before legislators voted.
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 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 harms 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.
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.