OUR VIEW: Don’t chase police out of career field

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JG-TC editorial board

Changes in health care and insurance regulations drove some doctors and nurses out of the medical profession. They couldn’t afford to stay in business, and they couldn’t do the things they viewed as their jobs.

The SAFE-T Act, a major criminal justice reform backed by the Illinois Legislative Black Caucus, was signed into law by Gov. J.B. Pritzker in February. That measure mandated body cameras and changed use-of-force guidelines for law enforcement, created a new police certification system, expanded detainee rights and ends the use of cash bail in Illinois.

The law was signed in spite of strenuous objections from police around the state.

Those objections are starting to hit close to home.

Friday was the last day for Don Koonce to serve as Shelby County sheriff. In his resignation letter, Koonce said, “This decision was not an easy one for me to make, but (was) reaffirmed by the imminent change in police reform. It is my hope that Illinois legislators dive deep into this reform, and make sweeping changes. The safety of the public is at risk.”

Also this week, at least a dozen spouses of Decatur police officers attended the Decatur City Council meeting. Their concerns included higher staffing levels, harsher sentences for violent offenders and greater public displays of support for their spouses. Criminals feel emboldened by criminal justice reform efforts at the state level while the department faces understaffing.

There may be fantastic and logical reasons behind the actions of the legislature. But OK’ing the SAFE-T Act without the input and over the objections of law enforcement officials showed tunnel vision. The law shouldn’t prevent officers from doing their work.

That the legislature is already reconsidering and reworking the act shows the effort to have it passed was quick and not fully considered. Let’s hope legislators listen to police and try to understand we consider them the good guys.

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June 25, 2021 at 10:36PM

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