A legislative plan for sweeping police reform filed in the Illinois General Assembly on Tuesday, Jan. 5, has law enforcement concerned about the future of public safety if the moves are enacted before the “lame duck” session ends on Wednesday, Jan. 13.
The reforms, attached as an amendment to House Bill 163, are numerous and include eliminating cash bail, sworn affidavits, collective bargaining and qualified immunity, meaning officers would no longer have blanket protection from civil lawsuits, and mandates body cameras be worn at all times.
According to a statement released by the Illinois Law Enforcement Association, “the so-called ‘reforms’ that are part of House Bill 163 as amended would destroy law enforcement’s ability to keep communities safe. The authors of this legislation are not law enforcement professionals with hundreds of years of combined experience and this bill was drafted without law enforcement input, and because of that the long-term unintended consequences of this legislation would be dire.”
According to Montgomery County Sheriff Rick Robbins, not only are the legislative reforms an issue, but also the manner in which they were introduced without input from law enforcement.
“We need to be at the table to discuss these issues,” Robbins said. “Of course, it’s in the lame duck session, so we only have a few days, but there has been no discussion.”
The sheriff said on Friday, Dec. 8, the Montgomery County Board’s Finance Committee voted to voice opposition to the House Bill 163 amendment, as did County Board Chairman Evan Young.
“I thank them for that,” Robbins said.
Because they were not at the table, Robbins said a coalition representing Illinois law enforcement leadership and rank-and-file officers issued a 15-point plan in a “Safe Communities and Law Enforcement Modernization Strategy,” a proposal in the works since summer to build trust and a stronger relationship between law enforcement and the communities they serve.
Points in the strategy include advocating for crime victims, access to mental health professionals, funding for community resources, recognition of Illinois’ leadership in reforms, funding for training, recommendations on the use of body cameras, dismissal and decertification of “bad cops,” use-of-force reporting, misconduct reporting, support for collective bargaining, a use-of-force standardized policy, school resource officers, officer wellness and support, and officer recruitment.
In addition to the coalition’s 15-point plan, members identified six major areas of concern in police reform discussions, such as execution of warrants, militarization, sworn affidavits, qualified immunity, detainment and corrections, and the bail system.
Robbins said the proposed legislation attached to House Bill 163 would not only impact law enforcement, but also the court system in Illinois and the Illinois Department of Corrections.