FULTON COUNTY, Ill. (WTVO) — A retired Illinois sheriff says criminal justice reforms aimed at eliminating cash bail are a “backdoor way” of defunding the police.

Retired Fulton County Sheriff Sgt. Donald Hackett told FOX News Digital that the law will likely create an exodus of law enforcement officers, who may ask themselves if they should even bother arresting people.

“No one is looking at the victim side of this or the law enforcement side of this. We have politicians that think that bail is racist against the underprivileged. But it’s not. This is the legislative backdoor way of defunding the police,” he said.

Last month, the Illinois Supreme Court overturned a lower court’s ruling on the SAFE-T Act’s Pretrial Fairness Act, paving the way for the state to become the first in the nation to abolish cash bail.

In its ruling, the court said, “The Illinois Constitution of 1970 does not mandate that monetary bail is the only means to ensure criminal defendants appear for trials or the only means to
protect the public. Our constitution creates a balance between the individual rights of defendants and the individual rights of crime victims. The Act’s pretrial release provisions set forth procedures commensurate with that balance. For the reasons that we have stated, we reverse the circuit court’s decision to grant summary judgment in favor of plaintiffs.”

The Safety, Accountability, Fairness, and Equity-Today Act, or the SAFE-T Act, was introduced by the Illinois Black Caucus as part of Black legislators’ response to the murder of George Floyd, and was passed by the Illinois Senate and House of Representatives in the early hours of Jan. 13, 2021.

Jefferson County Sheriff Jeff Bullard told Fox News, “A lot of the things that are in the SAFE-T Act come from advocates that are anti-police. Law enforcement leaders are really taxed not to align themselves with this thinking, not to think that there’s a compromise when there’s a group of people that just believe that cops are racists, that cops are murderers, that cops are all these ugly things.” 

Gov. JB Pritzker signed the bill into law on Feb. 22 of that year. It was challenged by 64 county state’s attorneys, who claimed the law was unconstitutional. The Supreme Court rejected the plaintiff’s case and ultimately ruled that the legislation conforms to the Illinois Constitution.

The lower court’s pause on the Pretrial Fairness Act’s implementation will be lifted on September 18th, 2023.

“You’re going to see a lot of dissatisfaction in the job, and you’re going to see police officers say, ‘Why even bother?’” said retired Riverside Police Chief Tom Weitzel. “So, you go to a fight, a fight in the street, where you usually would arrest somebody for battery, or you would charge somebody with a driving offense … you’re going to be like, ‘Why should I even do this? Why should I even stop this person? Why should we even make the arrest?’”

Hackett, who now serves as the secretary for the Illinois Fraternal Order of Police, said revenue from cash bail accounts for up to $300,000 in some counties, which goes to pay crime victims funds or domestic violence funds.

Gov. Pritzker said last year that abolishing cash bail “creates a more equitable system where pre-trial detention is based on community risk rather than financial means.”