(The Center Square) – Statehouse Democrats are unveiling a package of bills they say takes a smart approach to supporting law enforcement in Illinois, and it has the backing of law enforcement groups.
Republicans say the majority party is trying to “rewrite history.”
The measures Democratic legislators unveiled Monday during a news conference at the Illinois State Capitol range from funding mental health treatment for officers to off-hours child care grants, funding for body camera data retention and more.
Among the measures are efforts to increase law enforcement training through community colleges and to provide drug treatment grants to jail inmates.
“The lawmakers and advocates here today acknowledge that Illinois must support our police and law enforcement officers and we hope these beautiful bills and reforms will improve our criminal justice system,” said state Sen. Scott Bennet, D-Champaign.
Standing in support of the package of proposals, Illinois Sheriffs’ Association Executive Director Jim Kaitschuk said the current rate of vacancies across the state is 20%.
“This includes dispatchers, correctional officers, deputies, officers and sheriffs,” Kaitschuk siad. “In this past year alone, we’ve lost 18 sheriffs. Demands and expectations on law enforcement continue to increase. Unfortunately, the funding to support these new demands has not always coincided with those new responsibilities.”
The Illinois Association of Chiefs of Police last month proposed additional funding to the tune of more than $750 million to support law enforcement. Executive Director Ed Wojcicki said this package addresses some of that.
“This does address some of those concerns because it addresses mental health, it addresses recruitment and retention and our package was large and I’m pleased to see that these legislators have picked up on some of our ideas and are running with it,” Wojcicki said during the news conference.
The measures are still fluid with the legislature in session until Friday, but Democratic leadership say they’re confident they can get them across the finish line.
Republicans in the super minority of both chambers were critical of the proposals, saying they won’t address the problems they see with the Democrats’ SAFE-T Act, a sweeping criminal justice reform and police regulation bill approved and enacted early 2021.
“This package fails to fix any of the underlying concerns found in Democrats’ anti-police law, which has been cited by law enforcement and state’s attorneys as a major concern within our criminal justice system and the reason so many are leaving the profession,” said Senate Minority Leader Dan McConchie, R-Hawthorn Woods. “This proposal will continue to give criminals the upper hand. Time and time again, we are seeing the same offenders back in the street re-offending. That’s only going to get worse if we don’t make the fundamental changes necessary to this very dangerous law.”
Republican House Minority Leader Jim Durkin, R-Western Springs, said Democrats have “repeatedly attacked our police” and “are trying to rewrite history.” He said “until they wake up” and repeal the Democrat’s police regulation bill passed in January 2021, “there will be no safe communities in Illinois.”
April 4, 2022 at 05:07PM