SPRINGFIELD, IL — State lawmakers passed a broad package of police reforms Wednesday in the final hours of the lame-duck session of the 101st Illinois General Assembly.
Gov. J.B. Pritzker indicated he will sign the bill over the objections of law enforcement groups. Backers of the measure say it will increase police accountability and reduce inequities in the criminal law system.
Authored by the Legislative Black Caucus following last summer’s protests against police brutality, House Bill 3653 would make Illinois the first state in the nation to end cash bail, starting in 2023. It would also require all officers to wear body cameras by 2025, expand the process for revoking the certification of officers found to have engaged in misconduct, and many other measures including creating statewide use of force standards and expanding training.
Around 4 a.m. Tuesday, state Sen. Elgie Sims (D-Chicago) introduced a 764-page amendment that creates five new acts and amends more than a half-dozen more. It was approved by a 32-23 vote, with five Democratic senators voting against it and three others not voting. The bill then headed to the House for concurrence, and with about an hour remaining before the end of the term, passed by a vote of 60-50.
Sims said the measures included in the bill aim to make sure the criminal law system works for everyone, regardless of their ethnicity or where they live.
“We can no longer delay, distract and deny the damage that has been caused to our communities. The time is now to act,” Sims said.
“There should not be a situation when an individual, when they come into contact with law enforcement, that they should fear for their lives. When a young person sees those lights of a police car, they’re thinking about whether or not they’re going to get a ticket, but for a Black young person, they are fearing if they are actually going to go home,” the bill’s sponsor continued.
“Those are two different systems of justice, so we have to ensure that we are creating one system of justice, not two systems of justice — one that serves Black Americans and other marginalized communities, and one that serves everyone else. The reforms that we are making are about keeping our communities safe, not less.”
A coalition of police unions and law enforcement associations issued a statement after the Senate’s early morning package of the bill. It said the “monster bill” had been pushed through in the middle of the night before the people voting on it had a chance to read it.
“In the dark of night Illinois legislators made Illinois less safe,” it said.
“We had been working in good faith with the Attorney General on a bill that would make great strides to modernize law enforcement, but that legislation was dumped into this monster bill and the result is a betrayal of the public trust that gives many more advantages to criminals than the police. It ties the hands of police officers while pursuing suspects and making arrests, and allows criminals to run free while out on bail,” the group added.
“The legislation includes no way to pay for any of these law abiding citizen-threatening measures, so taxpayers will have to pay extra for the privilege of being crime victims.”
The group said residents would be less safe if the bill is signed into law and urged the governor to veto it. A change.org petition launched this week urging Pritzker to veto the bill also said it “doesn’t allow illinois peace officers to fulfill their sworn oath and duty to help keep communities and citizens safe. “
Pritzker issued a statement thanked the state lawmakers who sent the bill to his desk and the activists who pushed for the criminal justice reforms included in it.
“I have long held that an essential mark of good governance is a willingness to change the laws that have failed the people of Illinois,” Pritzker said.
“This criminal justice package carries with it the opportunity to shape our state into a lesson in true justice for the nation by abolishing cash bail, modernizing sentencing laws, instituting a certification and decertification system for police officers statewide, requiring body cameras, reforming crowd control response, and amplifying law enforcement training standards,” the governor added.
“I was proud to make ending cash bail and modernizing sentencing laws a legislative priority of my administration, and I have long pledged my support to the Illinois Legislative Black Caucus in their efforts to pass not just criminal justice reform and police accountability measures, but also to truly root out the systemic racism that pulses through all our nation’s institutions by pursuing greater equity in healthcare, higher goals in education, and deeper investments in economic opportunity for communities that have for too long been left out and left behind.”
While the Illinois State’s Attorneys Association was among the groups to oppose the bill, Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx described it as a step in the right direction.
“As Bryan Stevenson has said, ‘Our criminal justice system treats you better if you are rich and guilty than it does if you are innocent and poor.’ Eliminating cash bail ends the practice of detaining non-violent offenders simply because they are poor while also preventing violent offenders from being released because they can afford bail,” Foxx said in a statement after its passage. “Additionally, this legislation implements increased standards of police accountability and helps to rebuild public trust in the system. I’m grateful for the legislators, advocates and community members who went from ‘protest to progress.'”
Lake County State’s Attorney Eric Rinehart, who took office last month, said in a statement that eliminating cash bail would make the state safer.
“These common sense reforms will prevent tragedies like the case of Cassandra Tanner-Miller in which her abuser posted $5,000.00 and then killed their 18-month-old child. It will prevent the gross disparity we see between holding a non-violent offender on a small bail while Kyle Rittenhouse is released in Wisconsin because supporters posted millions,” Rinehart said.
“With respect to our partners in law enforcement, body-cameras need to be funded, but they protect officers and civilians alike. As for the few officers who engage in misconduct, this bill gives all of us necessary and needed tools to discover the misconduct and deal with it in a transparent way that will restore the link between the community and our justice system.”
Cook County Chief Judge Timothy Evans, who ordered bail reform in his county’s criminal courts four years ago, said money has never been an effective measure of who should be released ahead of trial after being accused of a crime.
“If they pose no danger to the public, persons should not be punished before being convicted of a crime,” Evans said. “Cash bail provides freedom to those who have the resources to pay it, which is indicative neither of innocence nor of whether a person poses a threat.”
Attorney General Kwame Raoul praised the passage of the legislation, which adopted his proposals to expand his office’s authority to investigate patterns of unconstitutional policing by local and state agencies and to allow for officers to lose their certification without having to be convicted of a felony or certain misdemeanors.
“These certification reforms are the result of collaboration between my office, law enforcement, advocates and the sponsors — Rep. Justin Slaughter and Sen. Elgie Sims. Senator Tim Bivins began this journey years ago, and I am proud that today we have reached our destination and will be implementing meaningful reform that will promote professionalism, increase transparency and restore the public’s trust in law enforcement,” Raoul said in a statement. “I applaud the tireless effort of the Illinois Legislative Black Caucus to address criminal justice reform in Illinois in a comprehensive manner.”
Among the other provisions included in the wide-ranging bill:
- Expands an existing statewide database of officer misconduct and creates a new, public version to show if officers are certified.
- Requires the preservation of disciplinary records and allows complaints to be filed without an accompanying sworn affidavit
- Forbids police unions from negotiating a reduction in discipline or licensing requirements
- Allows the Illinois Law Enforcement Training Board to strip certification from officers under more circumstances
- Creates statewide use of force standards and expands training requirements
- Requires agencies report in-custody deaths and provide better medical car to those in custody, especially pregnant women.
- Provide detainees access to three phone calls and stored phone numbers before being questioned.
- Bans police from buying certain military surplus equipment
- Limits the scope of the felony murder rule
- Makes police explain why they were arresting in order to file a charge of resisting arrest
- Adds a duty for police to intervene when another officer uses excessive force and expands protections for whistleblowers
- Requires officers conducting no-knock search warrants follow a series of new procedures
- Counts people in state prison at their prior addresses for redistricting purposes
Most of the law is due to take effect July 1, although several clauses do not have to be implemented until the first day of 2022, 2023, 2024 and 2025.
Some more controversial elements were eliminated from the final version of the bill to secure its passage, including an end to qualified immunity for civil rights violations. That would have made individual officers — instead of taxpayers — financially liable if a court found they intentionally violated the constitution.