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Illinois’ controversial police reform bill passes both chambers, heads to Gov. Pritzker’s desk

UPDATE: 11:33 a.m., January 13, 2021

The massive criminal justice reform bill passes out of the House 60-50. With the plan receiving approval from both chambers, it will head to Gov. JB Pritzker's desk for approval.

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State Representative Dave Severin (R-Benton) voted no on a massive legislative package that he says will hamper law enforcement’s ability to do their job and make Illinois a more dangerous place to live. 

“This is not the way to conduct the peoples’ business. The Senate passed the bill at 5 in the morning and the House passed it 4 hours later with less than an hour of debate,” Severin said. “That kind of heavy-handed display of raw political power is what turns people off to politics and leaves people ultimately disengaged and disenfranchised. I ask that the Governor veto this irresponsible legislation and implore Democrats to work with Republicans, law enforcement, and labor to provide legislative fixes for the many fatal flaws contained in the legislation as it passed the House and Senate.”

Energy Police Chief Shawn Ladd disagrees with the legislation.

f the governor signs this legislation, and I have no reason to believe he won’t, law enforcement as we know it comes to an end. Safety and justice lose and criminals win. No cash bail will essentially equate to a catch and release scenario for many crimes. Even more troubling is the loss of “qualified immunity” for police officers. Simply put, the majority of states and courts have long recognized that in the lawful performance of their duty, officers are often confronted with suspects who resist arrest. This inevitably leads to use of force to some degree. Qualified immunity protects officers from personal civil liability in these instances. Suspects can bring suit against the employing agency but not the officer individually (personal assets vs. insurance coverage). This is a devastating provision that will turn proactive officers into cautionary, reactive officers. It will instigate a mass exodus of veteran officers opting for early retirement or outright career changes and dissuade quality candidates from ever pursuing the career. In my 30+ years as a police officer, I have never encountered more troubling news. If this bill is signed into law, the decent, law abiding citizens of this state will suffer immensely.

Statement from Franklin County Sheriff David Bartoni.

I am shocked and disappointed at the careless manner in which this 611 page bill was rushed to legislature vote during a lame duck session, without full stakeholder input. This swift and reckless decision today puts law enforcement officers at risk and will undoubtedly change the criminal justice system for the worse. The absurd language in this legislation, which makes it extremely difficult for officers to do their job, will certainly force good men and women to leave this honorable profession which will have far reaching impacts on public safety.

ORIGINAL STORY

SPRINGFIELD (WSIL) -- A controversial police reform bill passes 32-23 in the Illinois Senate early Wednesday morning during the legislature's lame duck session. The bill now heads to the Illinois House.

Lawmakers approved the Criminal Justice Reform Act (House Bill 3653, formerly House Bill 163) proposed by the Legislative Black Caucus, just before 5:00 a.m.

The bill would eliminate cash bail, require body cameras for all departments, reforms qualified immunity for law enforcement officers, and changes police misconduct record keeping.

Many law enforcement groups and Republican leaders have voiced strong opposition to the bill.

Jefferson County Sheriff Jeff Bullard voiced his opposition to News 3 in an interview last week.

"It's important to note that while we support proper reform, there are things that are deal breakers," said Bullard. "Anything that threatens public safety, anything that threatens officer safety in reform, we will oppose."

The latest version of the criminal law overhaul bill, 764 pages, was introduced after 3:00 a.m., giving lawmakers less than two hours to debate and read over it before a vote.

Senator Dale Fowler (R-Harrisburg) said in a statement sent to News 3:

"In the early hours of the morning, Democrat lawmakers dumped a 700-page criminal justice reform proposal on our desks, leaving us no time to review the measure in its entirety, seek public input or gather law enforcement feedback. This bill is a dangerous proposal that makes it easier for offenders to commit violent crimes, eliminates cash bail and endangers the safety of our citizens.

"I stand with the men and women of our law enforcement who bravely serve each-and-every day. I am beyond disappointed that this is how such a vitally important proposal was rammed through the Senate chamber, without full consideration of the consequences this bill will have on our law enforcement profession and the wellbeing and safety of our communities.

This is not how reform should be done and this is not a bill I support."

Senator Paul Schimpf (R-Waterloo) posted on Facebook saying:

At 4:45AM the Democrat's Criminal Justice Omnibus Bill passed the Illinois Senate. I voted NO. Our law enforcement community deserved a full, transparent debate during a regular session of the General Assembly. I hope the Illinois House rejects this legislation that makes the law enforcement mission more dangerous and difficult.

The Illinois House is adjourned until 8:00 a.m.

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