Illinois police union: reform bill will ’embolden criminals, threaten officers’

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SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (WTVO) — A survey of law enforcement in Illinois shows a majority say a police reform bill passed by the General Assembly last month will embolden criminals and threaten officers.

According to the Illinois Fraternal Order of Police, a total of 1,500 law enforcement officers statewide responded to a survey about the legislation, which is headed to Gov. JB Pritzker to be signed into law.

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.

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.

The survey results include:

  • 83 percent anticipate that law enforcement officers’ ability to respond will be diminished as a result of the legislation.
  • 99 percent feel the legislation will embolden criminals.
  • 88 percent think the “no cash bail” provision will adversely impact crime victims in their jurisdictions.
  • 97 percent feel physically or financially threatened by the provisions of the legislation.
  • 66 percent are considering retirement or early retirement because of the legislation.
  • 46 percent indicate they are actively looking to move out of state for other work, and of those 46 percent, four out of ten respondents believe they will be leaving law enforcement entirely.
  • 97 percent indicated the legislation will affect the way they, their families and friends will vote in future elections.

“The survey results are no surprise because it’s clear to anyone who reads the bill that law enforcement was not involved in drawing up its final provisions,” said Illinois FOP State Lodge President Chris Southwood. “The legislation prevents officers from taking immediate, potentially life-saving action in critical situations. Its no cash bail provision makes it difficult to keep people locked up who may be a further threat to their victims, and it places numerous mandates on police agencies with no funding source for local communities.”

“Illinois will be a much more inviting atmosphere for criminals and a much more dangerous place for law-abiding citizens if this bill becomes law,” Southwood said. “We urge the Governor to do what this bill’s sponsors did not – truly listen to those who are on the front lines every day protecting the public, and veto this legislation.”

A Change.org petition, urging Pritzker to veto the bill, has garnered over 160,000 signatures.

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