Police, lawmakers slam Illinois criminal justice reform bill that eliminates cash bailFebruary 25, 2021
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Illinois police and politicians are sounding off against a sweeping criminal justice reform bill signed into law earlier this week, in one instance calling the legislation “a blatant move to punish an entire, honorable profession that will end up hurting law-abiding citizens the most.”
Gov. J.B. Pritzker signed the bill – an overhaul of criminal justice and policing in the state – on Monday. A coalition of law enforcement agencies from across the state has since slammed Pritzker’s move, criticizing the Democratic governor for choosing “to listen to a few strident political voices rather than the 120,000 petition signing citizens who plainly saw the bill for what it is,” according to a statement provided to Fox News on Wednesday.
“Because we are sworn to protect and serve the public, we sincerely hope that we will not be proven right about this new law, that it won’t cause police officers to leave the profession in droves and handcuff those who remain so they can’t stop crimes against people and property,” continues the statement by the Illinois Law Enforcement Coalition. “Please don’t let us measure its dismal failure by the shattered lives it produces.”
Chicago Police Department officers look on as protesters gather outside their precinct on June 19, 2020 in Chicago. (Photo by Natasha Moustache/Getty Images)
The coalition is comprised of the Illinois Sheriffs’ Association, the Illinois Association of Chiefs of Police, Illinois Troopers Lodge 41 and state and local branches of the Illinois Fraternal Order of Police.
“We urge all citizens to remember who supported this law,” the statement concludes, “and keep that in mind the next time they look to the police in Illinois for the protection they can no longer provide.”
The legislation even got the attention of an Alabama police chief, who penned a letter to Pritzker thanking him for the anticipated influx of Illinois law enforcement officers who will be looking for jobs elsewhere.
The bill mandates police officers in all departments be equipped with body-worn cameras by 2025, and requires that officials establish a “statewide use of force standard for law enforcement agencies,” effective Jan. 1 of next year. The bill also calls for cash bail to be eliminated by 2023, effectively moving away from “a system of pretrial detention that prioritizes wealth, to one that prioritizes public safety,” Pritzker’s office said in a subsequent press release.
New York, New Jersey and Washington, D.C. have taken similar steps in terms of bail reform, but do not go as far as the Illinois legislation.
“Please don’t let us measure its dismal failure by the shattered lives it produces.”
The bill creates a “co-responder model” to support the creation of programs and service to address mental health and substance abuse concerns and adds funding for additional related training. It requires police misconduct records be kept and mandates that police departments create plans “to protect vulnerable people present during search warrant raids,” the release states.
In a statement released Monday, Pritzker said the legislation marked “a substantial step toward dismantling the systemic racism that plagues our communities, our state and our nation and brings us closer to true safety, true fairness and true justice.”
“In this terrible year, in the middle of a brutal viral pandemic that hurt Black people and Brown people disproportionately, lawmakers fought to address the pandemic of systemic racism in the wake of national protests,” he said. “This bill was also infused with solutions from individuals most directly impacted: survivors of domestic violence, survivors of crime, and those who have been detained pre-trial only because they are poor. Today we advance our values in the law.”
He highlighted on his Twitter page a list of “myths” and “facts” related to them.
Some of Illinois’ top-ranking law enforcement officials supported the law, including Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx and Attorney General Kwame Raoul, both of whom are Democrats.
Sharone Mitchell Jr., director of the Illinois Justice Project, called the elimination of cash bail and bond “one of the most important reforms” that will “put meaning into our criminal justice system’s ‘presumption of innocence.’”
“When effective in two years, judges will be able to detain anyone determined to be a threat to the community or unlikely to return for a court date, but no one else will be required to come up with cash to buy their release from jail prior to a trial,” Mitchell Jr. said.
But others had less than favorable things to say.
Illinois Republican Party Chairman Don Tracy said in a statement Monday that Pritzker was “willfully undermining public safety — endangering citizens, emboldening criminals, and making Illinois less safe for families.”
“Don’t just take it from me,” he added. “Every police association in the state has condemned this bill.”
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Illinois State Sen. John Curran, a Republican, said the legislation was “rammed through in the middle of the night with just hours left in a Lame Duck session without the transparency and discourse expected in a democratic process.”
“Gov. Pritzker has enacted this hyper-partisan legislation against the strong objections of nearly every law enforcement organization in the state, and against the great concern of the general public,” he said. “There are some positives in this legislation – specifically the changes that make it easier to reprimand and de-certify bad actors in law enforcement who have broken the public’s trust. Unfortunately, the negatives, which could have been further negotiated had the sponsors been open to bipartisan support, will undoubtedly make our communities less safe.”
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