ROCKFORD, Ill. (WTVO) — Local law enforcement and government leaders held a press conference Tuesday to speak out against a massive police reform initiative introduced Friday by the Illinois Legislative Black Caucus, the Pretrial Fairness Act, which would abolish cash bail among other substantial policing reforms.
Part of the aim of the legislation would set free certain criminal offenders without having to wait in jail for their court date, because they can’t afford bond.
Advocates for the abolishment of cash bail view it as a pillar of institutional racism within the criminal justice system.
Instead, a judge would issue pre-trial release conditions for offenders, something local pastors have been pushing for, saying the change is necessary to improve the criminal justice system.
The Pretrial Fairness Act would still allow a judge to detain a person, but only for specific felony offenses, such as domestic battery, murder, or gun crimes.
The comprehensive police reform plan would eliminate qualified immunity for individual police officers, potentially exposing them to civil lawsuits; prohibits police departments from purchasing certain “militaristic” equipment; mandates the use of police body cameras for all officers; and eliminates the felony murder charge.
Speakers at Tuesday’s event voiced concerns that the legislation is being considered during Congress’ lame duck session and is being pushed without consultation with law enforcmenet.
“This is not an attack on law enforcement. This is attack on the community, on victims of crime. Because what it does is prevent us from doing our jobs,” Winnebago County Sheriff Gary Caruana said.
“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.”
“It’s just flat out foolish,” added Loves Park Mayor Gary Jury. “I hope our representatives see that and stand up and make a choice.”
Winnebago County Board Chairman Joe Chiarelli and Ogle County Sheriff Brian VanVickle also voiced opposition to the law’s passage, saying it will create an increase in crime.
67th District Representative Maurice West is part of the legislative Black Caucus, which helped write the amendment. He says he has no problems meeting with local law enforcement.
We’re going to have coffee when I come home and we’re going to talk about this even if it passes or even if it doesn’t, either way, we’re going to have a conversation and I’m looking forward to it,” said Rep. West.