Jim Dey | Trailer bill gives law-enforcement groups their say in criminal-justice overhaul


Law enforcement groups statewide complained bitterly when Gov. J.B. Pritzker in February signed controversial legislation they characterized as an assault on both common sense and public safety.

“This is actually an ‘anti-police bill,’” Ed Wojcicki, executive director of the Illinois Association of Chiefs of Police, said at the time.

But the law-enforcement community did more than complain. It immediately sought negotiations with the bills’ sponsors to identify and correct some of the legislation’s ill-conceived intended consequences.

As a consequence of their talks with State Sen. Elgie Sims and state Rep. Justin Slaughter, both Chicago Democrats, the two sides reached agreement on what’s called a “trailer bill” that addresses some — but not nearly all — of the contested issues in the original 700-plus page bill.

After identifying “12 major concerns,” the association issued a statement that asserted “we now find that most of them have been addressed and/or resolved.”

“Because of implementation dates that come in 2022 or later, there is still time to address other big issues that have not been addressed and resolved,” it said.

The trailer bill was approved by the General Assembly in the waning hours of the recent spring session. The legislative Black caucus sponsored the original bill, and not all of its members approved of the changes.

State Rep. Curtis Tarver, D-Chicago, complained the proposed changes were “gutting” the original bill. But Sims and Slaughter urged their colleagues to approve it, and it now awaits Pritzker’s signature.

While the police chiefs organization supported the trailer bill, two other groups — the Illinois Sheriffs’ Association and the Fraternal Order of Police — remained neutral.

“There are many more areas of change that need to be made,” said Jim Kaitschuk, executive director of the sheriffs’ association.

Debate over the trailer bill, however, indicated that backers of the original legislation who supported the corrective trailer bill are not interested in further changes.

Some of the corrections involved provisions of the original bill that were nonsensical.

For example, police were barred from using force to arrest a resisting suspect if they concluded the suspect could be arrested at a “later date.”

The chiefs said that was “unreasonable” because “almost anyone can be arrested at a later date.”

Other objections concerned a costly unfunded mandate requiring all law-enforcement agencies to equip officers with body cameras, a provision that barred officers from reviewing body-camera footage before writing reports and criminalizing the conduct of officers who make errors in writing incident reports.

The most controversial proposal is the elimination of bail, which will allow the vast majority of individuals charged with crimes to be released from custody. The measure to end bail, which the governor has characterized as a reflection of “systemic racism,” will not take effect for two years.

Another change includes clarifying instances when an individual can be taken into custody for resisting arrest and obstruction of justice.

Arresting an individual for resisting arrest requires an underlying offense for which the individual is subject to arrest. An individual can be arrested on an obstruction charge for interfering with police officers’ efforts to carry out their duties.

The issues where agreement was reached included body cameras, the use of force, a more specific definition of what constitutes an illegal chokehold, training requirements and obstruction/resisting arrest.

Among the issues that remain on the table are issuing citations in place of custodial arrests, a defendant’s right to make muiltiple telephone calls while in custody and permitting investigation of misconduct allegations based on anonymous complaints.

Although promoters and opponents of the legislation were able to find the common ground that was reflected in the trailer bill, what proponents characterized as a comprehensive criminal-justice reform bill remains one of the most controversial pieces of legislation ever signed into law by a governor of Illinois.

Readers will hear much about its consequences in the coming months and yeas, particularly when the elimination of bail takes effect.

Jim Dey, a member of The News-

Gazette staff, can be reached at jdey@news-gazette.com or 217-393-8251.

via The News-Gazette

June 13, 2021 at 05:56PM

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