Illinois police reform bill clears House and Senate, heads to governor

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SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (WTVO) — The Illinois House has passed a controversial police reform bill which will now head to Gov. JB Pritzker’s desk to be signed into law.

House Bill 3653 passed the House with a 60-50 vote after being approved by the Senate just before 5 a.m.

A modified version of the comprehensive police reform plan would eliminate cash bail within 2 years; allow the use of deadly force only when an officer acts in self defense or defending others from bodily harm; makes it easier to decertify officers by eliminating signed affidavit of complaint; limits the purchase of specialized tactical (military) equipment; and mandates the use of police body cameras for all officers by 2025.

A provision which would have removed qualified immunity for individual police officers, potentially exposing them to civil lawsuits, was eliminated from the new version of the bill.

“Too many Illinois families have experienced the pain of losing a loved one or watched their communities suffer – I’ve felt that pain and loss myself. But today, Illinois is helping lead the way in addressing the root causes of violence and trauma,” said Bertha Purnell, coordinator of the Chicago chapter for Crime Survivors for Safety and Justice. “For far too long, public safety policies have focused on over-incarceration, rather than prevention, rehabilitation, and victim services for communities most impacted by violence. Today, our elected officials affirmed that we must address trauma and rehabilitation to ensure healthier and safer lives for our children and families.”

Law enforcement across Illinois have opposed the bill.

“It will make it difficult, if not impossible, to hold suspects in custody when they have been accused of crimes,” said Loves Park Police Chief Chuck Lynde. “It prevents the use of force in almost all situations, including those which are life threatening.”

The bill was introduced by the Illinois Legislative Black Caucus in response to nationwide social justice calls for police reform following the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis last year.

67th District Representative Maurice West (D) is part of the legislative Black Caucus, which helped write the amendment.

“The events of the past year have also reminded us of the importance of addressing systemic racism. I remain a strong proponent of needed police reform, as well as efforts to improve education and economic opportunities for disadvantaged communities. Too many in our community have had to deal with the consequences and enabling of intolerance; action cannot be delayed,” West said Wednesday.

“Unfortunately, on a local, state and federal level, recent ethics scandals have caused many residents to lose trust in our institutions to do the right thing. I share the same concern, which is why I am prioritizing work on ethics reforms that can help restore faith in our government,” he continued.

Rep. Joe Sosnowski (R-69th) responded to news of the bill’s passage, saying “If the Springfield leadership was interested in an open and transparent process, together we could have come up with better solutions. I am deeply concerned about public safety and the ability of our law enforcement agencies to do their jobs in the wake of this bill’s passage.”

Sen. Dave Syverson (R-Rockford), who voted against the bill, said, “This proposal will put violent offenders back on the streets, put an end to cash bail, endangers our residents and threatens the law enforcement profession in Illinois. It’s unbelievable. The safety and wellbeing of our communities and citizens are at stake here. We cannot afford not to get criminal justice reform right. Unfortunately, those who supported this bill, did not agree.

“I respect our local law enforcement and value the safety of our communities above all else. This was shortsighted and devastating anti-police legislation that should not have passed. I voted no this morning and vow to continue standing with our police officers.”

The Illinois Law Enforcement Coalition released the following statement Wednesday:

“We are extremely disappointed and saddened in the process, the lack of discussion with members of the law enforcement community, and the ultimate outcome in the Illinois General Assembly today. The lawmakers who voted in favor of this criminal-favoring legislation ignored the pleas of more than 112,000 petition-signing citizens and refused to listen to the concerns of law enforcement. Our communities will be less safe if this legislation is signed into law. We urge Governor J.B. Pritzker to stand up for the majority of Illinois citizens who value their lives, possessions and well-being and veto this bill and its extreme provisions. Today’s outcome, although it is ominous for Illinois, does not diminish our commitment. Our members will continue to use all authorized means to protect every community.”

Governor JB Pritzker issued the following statement following the passage of HB3653.  

“I have long held that an essential mark of good governance is a willingness to change the laws that have failed the people of Illinois,” said Governor JB Pritzker. “This criminal justice package carries with it the opportunity to shape our state into a lesson in true justice for the nation by abolishing cash bail, modernizing sentencing laws, instituting a certification and decertification system for police officers statewide, requiring body cameras, reforming crowd control response, and amplifying law enforcement training standards. I was proud to make ending cash bail and modernizing sentencing laws a legislative priority of my administration, and I have long pledged my support to the Illinois Legislative Black Caucus in their efforts to pass not just criminal justice reform and police accountability measures, but also to truly root out the systemic racism that pulses through all our nation’s institutions by pursuing greater equity in healthcare, higher goals in education, and deeper investments in economic opportunity for communities that have for too long been left out and left behind.

In addition to recognizing the countless activists and advocates who have dedicated years – if not lifetimes – to pushing for change in a nation that locks people up at the highest rate in the world, I want to specifically offer my gratitude to Committee Chairs Representative Justin Slaughter and Senator Elgie Sims, Senator Robert Peters, Attorney General Kwame Raoul, the ACLU of Illinois, the Coalition to End Money Bond, the Illinois Justice Project, the People’s Lobby, and all who have committed themselves to building a fairer and more equitable Illinois.” 

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