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Illinois State Bar Association touts benefits of criminal justice reform bill

Sunday, Jan 10, 2021

* Tribune

Police unions and law enforcement organizations from across Illinois were united on Saturday in opposition to a broad criminal justice overhaul the Illinois Legislative Black Caucus is pushing during the General Assembly’s lame-duck session, while Cook County’s top prosecutor weighed in with her support.

Many of the objections from police unions and others were aired during a nearly four-hour Senate committee hearing, and centered largely on proposed restrictions on collective bargaining rights for police and the removal of protections for officers against lawsuits alleging civil rights violations. […]

Tamara Cummings, general counsel for the Illinois Fraternal Order of Police Labor Council, warned that eliminating so-called qualified immunity for officers would “open the floodgates for frivolous lawsuits.”

“This bill goes beyond reasonable reform and goes beyond necessary reform, and it’s frankly punitive,” Cummings testified before the Senate Executive Committee.

* Sun-Times

Law enforcement officials criticize the bill as only making their jobs harder.

Rep. Terri Bryant, R-Murphysboro, minority spokeswoman of the House committee, said she was frustrated the bill was being brought during the lame duck session.

“If you’re going to run it as an omnibus bill then it’s a bill that should be negotiated until you can find not only bipartisanship on it, but you might actually be able to come to an agreed bill,” Bryant said of the proposal, which packages together several subjects related to criminal justice reform.

Sen. Kimberly Lightford, D-Maywood, the current chair of the Black Caucus, sought to quash the idea that the bill was rushed and said during the Saturday committee “… we’ve tried to reform the police system a number of times and every time it’s always an excuse from law enforcement to work with us.”

* ABC 7

In the lame-duck session, state lawmakers discussed a new controversial criminal justice reform bill put forth by the Illinois Legislative Black Caucus.

“This is a big problem and requires a bold response. House Bill 163 as now amended is a bold response,” said John Rakowski with the Illinois State Bar Association.

* The ISBA’s Rakowski noted that when several criminal justice reform measures were proposed in the past, opponents predicted an “apocalypse.” This bill, he said, would not cause an apocalypse either

When you look at this bill as a whole, what you see is that it really about three things.

It’s about transparency and accountability. It’s about basic humanity. It’s about making a better and more skilled law enforcement for the state of Illinois.

Transparency includes such things as wearing body cams. It includes a provision not to erase the tapes after they’re recorded. It requires reporting details of deaths of people in custody. It allows the reporting of police misconduct without the person who was abused or potentially abused having to be sworn in and take an oath. It publishes what the police are doing in terms of the hardware that they purchase. That’s transparency that this bill provides.

It provides accountability. It provides whistleblower protection, for example. It provides a specific thing to [garbled] that is not in the police reports. Police reports have to be truthful. It requires that applications for no-knock search warrants have detailed plans for implementing the no-knock search warrant, and that the affidavits in the background information be accurate. It requires officers to identify themselves to others. This is accountability. This is exactly what we want in our judicial system and in our law enforcement system.

The next thing that brings us to is humanity. There are provisions in this bill to provide medical care when it is imminently needed. I don’t think there is a person in this room or probably in the state that thinks that we shouldn’t provide medical care when it is imminently needed. It requires that pregnant women who are in custody have their condition recognized and treated and the concerns that they raise be tended to. It requires that the police provide more than just one phone call if a person becomes arrested and can’t contact somebody on the first phone call. It provides that there should be warnings issued by the police, just verbally, nothing very formal, before they start clearing protesters out of the street. And it requires that non-lethal force in clearing streets, such as rubber bullets, not be used indiscriminately. […]

If you give immunity in this blanket fashion that is given now to certain police officer conduct, the rights that are in the US Constitution, the rights that are embedded in Article One of the Illinois Constitution become meaningless, because a right without a remedy is not really a right at all.

And then the last thing this bill talks about is improving law enforcement for all of Illinois. It provides for training in sensitive areas such as bias and gender. […]

It provides for tighter grounds for deciding who can be certified to be a police officer, and makes clear and more transparent for everyone how you revoke a certified police officer, when it is clearly shown that there are problems with this person being a law enforcement officer. […]

Another aspect of better law enforcement is that with the body cams that this mandates and phases in over a period of years, there will be no question as to what happened that day on the street, when it happens, because there’s going to be a record of it. The officers’ body cam. The car cams. All that is going to be available, it’s going to be preserved. And that makes for better law enforcement. […]

Be fair, equitable, humane and transparent. Those are the key issues. This is a broad bill. And it is a broad bill that requires a great deal to digest, but at the same time, it is not a particularly difficult thing to understand if you break it down into its relative segments and realize that as a whole, this is a bill that will make a better Illinois.

Please pardon all transcription errors.

* Related…


- Posted by Rich Miller        

9 Comments
  1. - 62468 - Sunday, Jan 10, 21 @ 6:02 am:

    Please consider adding the statement from Justin Hood of the Illinois State’s Attorneys Association to this post regarding HB 163. He is the Hamilton County SA.


  2. - Occasionally Moderated - Sunday, Jan 10, 21 @ 7:06 am:

    Rubber bullets in Illinois?

    State police does not use them and a quick Google did not return any results that they have been used here.

    As someone who has been trained in crowd control techniques I can tell you that I think law enforcement in illinois collectively think rubber bullets are a really bad and weird idea.


  3. - Occasionally Moderated - Sunday, Jan 10, 21 @ 7:11 am:

    The potential for eye damage is certainly “great bodily harm” which would certainly require justification for officers to use deadly force under Illinois statute. Probably every police department deadly force policy as well.


  4. - Tenderloin56 - Sunday, Jan 10, 21 @ 7:44 am:

    No mention of the humanity in stripping collective bargaining rights? I hope supporters have thought this one through. Wide ranging implications will result from passage of that portion of the bill.


  5. - Essential State Employee - Sunday, Jan 10, 21 @ 7:49 am:

    ==No mention of the humanity in stripping collective bargaining rights? I hope supporters have thought this one through. Wide ranging implications will result from passage of that portion of the bill.==

    I agree. Heaven forbid, a future Rauner-esque governor (or even someone Quinn-esque if he gets too embroiled with AFSCME), or someone from the Eastern Bloc, could evoke the collective bargaining part of the police reform bill to attempt to strip collective bargaining rights for all state employees and teachers. Not just limiting officers’ bargaining.


  6. - Annony1 - Sunday, Jan 10, 21 @ 8:19 am:

    Yeah the collective bargaining part of this bill is just bad! I’m also concerned about the removal of qualified immunity. I can definitely see that leading to frivolous lawsuits. The first thing that came to mind was someone suing state police officers personally for FOID card issues.

    Also, what about the immunity granted to prosecutors and judges? That should probably be lumped in if we’re being fair.


  7. - Precinct Captain - Sunday, Jan 10, 21 @ 12:41 pm:

    - Occasionally Moderated - Sunday, Jan 10, 21 @ 7:06 am:

    In Chicago, the cops just cold cock women.


  8. - Occasionally Moderated - Sunday, Jan 10, 21 @ 1:48 pm:

    Yes sir. I saw that.

    The incident occurred in 2007. He was fired. His victim was awarded $800k in 2012. According to the web he cost the city almost $3mil.

    I would really like to think Chicago is making some progress in dealing with gross misconduct since 2007.

    I guess that is the optimist in me.


  9. - PublicServant - Sunday, Jan 10, 21 @ 3:11 pm:

    === Heaven forbid, a future Rauner-esque governor (or even someone Quinn-esque if he gets too embroiled with AFSCME), or someone from the Eastern Bloc, could evoke the collective bargaining part of the police reform bill to attempt to strip collective bargaining rights for all state employees and teachers. ===

    I love the pearl-clutching as an argument against the police reform bill. The attempt to enlist the public union’s help in defeating this bill, when the police unions, and the FOP’s Cantazara in particular, disdain them at every turn is ludicrus. But, yeah, you go with that.


Sorry, comments for this post are now closed.


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