Pritzker signs criminal justice, police reform bill

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SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (WTVO) — Illinois Gov. JB Prtizker signed a controversial police reform bill on Monday.

House Bill 3653 passed the General Assembly in January lame duck session.

The criminal justice reform plan eliminates cash bail within 2 years; allows 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.

“This legislation marks 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,” said Pritzker. “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. 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 – progress secured despite the pandemic, because of the passion and push of the Legislative Black Caucus, activists, advocates, and residents intent on leaving a better Illinois for all our children.”

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. Among those opposed were representatives Joe Sosnowski (R-69th) and Dave Syverson (R-Rockford).

“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,” Syverson said.

Sen. Paul Schimpf, who is running against Pritzker in the next election, said, “By signing HB 3653 into law today, JB Pritzker failed the people of Illinois in terms of both policy and leadership. Adamantly opposed by nearly all Illinois law enforcement leaders, HB 3653 makes Illinois communities and families less safe. Even more troubling, the legislation’s passage during an overnight, lame-duck session vote lacked meaningful scrutiny and review. As Governor, I will veto all legislation that fails to comply with minimum levels of transparency.”

Police unions and other law enforcement organizations have urged Pritzker to veto the bill, saying it would give crime suspects more advantages than police.

“In signing this bill into law, Governor Pritzker chose 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. This new law is a blatant move to punish an entire, honorable profession that will end up hurting law-abiding citizens the most. 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. Please don’t let us measure its dismal failure by the shattered lives it produces. We urge all citizens to remember who supported this law, and keep that in mind the next time they look to the police in Illinois for the protection they can no longer provide,” said the Illinois Fraternal Order of Police.

“With the ending of cash bail, HB 3653 mandates the immediate release of persons arrested for burglary, arson, and kidnapping onto our streets while they await trial. The bill legalizes resistance to arrest in many cases and allows anonymous complaints to end a police officer’s career. If a body cam malfunctions or is not turned on properly during an incident, the police officer could now face a class 3 felony and up to five years in jail. Pritzker’s signing of this bill has ensured that police protection in Illinois will become more passive and criminals will become more aggressive,” said Illinois Republican Party Chairman Joe Hackler.

Many provisions will take effect on July 1, while others will be phased in over the next four years.

The legislation was authored by the Black Caucus and also acts to require police body cameras by 2025 and expand police training and instances in which officers can be stripped of certification.

Gov. Pritzker released a tweet about the facts of the bill, debunking some of the myths.

“MYTH: The bill endangers communities and emboldens criminals.

“FACT: It moves Illinois from a pretrial detention system that prioritizes wealth to one that prioritizes public safety. It also improves access to substance use programs and modernizes sentencing laws.

“MYTH: The bill defunds the police.

“FACT: It requires more investments into officer training, mental health and officer wellness, and the use of body worn cameras.

“MYTH: The bill is overly punitive of police officers.

“FACT: It expands training opportunities for officers and protects them from unjust lawsuits. It also sets statewide standards on force, crowd control, de-escalation and arrest techniques so officers have clarity

“MYTH: The bill was rushed through without external input.

“FACT: It was the result of 9 public hearings, 30 hours of testimony and meetings with law enforcement, community members and advocates. It also focuses on the needs of crime victims, many of whom support the bill.”

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