The Illinois Home is debating an enormous police reform omnibus
SPRINGFIELD – The Illinois House of Representatives continued to debate Sunday over a massive criminal justice collective bill that would change police practices in the state.
A 611-page amendment to House Bill 163 would fundamentally revise guidelines on the use of force, mandating body cameras for every law enforcement agency, ending bail, removing some qualified immunity safeguards, and stripping collective bargaining rights over police union discipline.
The legislation, which is the culmination of the Illinois Black Caucus Legislative Agenda to End Systemic Racism, has met opposition from law enforcement groups and Republican lawmakers.
“This has been a journey that we have been on for over 400 years,” said MP Justin Slaughter on Sunday. He is a Chicago Democrat who helped make HB163.
“We want to move from protest to progress,” he repeated three times emphatically.
Slaughter chairs the House Criminal Justice Committee, which must accept the amendment before he can go to the House to vote. The committee heard testimony and debates from law enforcement officials, community officials, legal experts, and Illinois Attorney General Kwame Raoul.
HB163 would change the acceptable forms of violence by civil servants and ban chokeholds and restraint systems that can restrict breathing. and severely restrict the situations in which lethal violence is permitted. The reforms were firmly opposed by the law enforcement coalition during the hearing on Sunday.
Brian VanVickle, Ogle County sheriff who represents the Illinois Sheriff’s Association, described the proposed reforms as “catastrophic” and said they would make policing impossible for officials who have to make split-second decisions.
Crystal Lake Police Chief James Black, president of the Illinois Association of Chiefs of Police, said he supported reforms on the use of force, but HB163 was not the answer.
“We want to bring about positive change in our communities,” he said. “But we don’t support the bill. The bill will destroy the ability of law enforcement agencies to keep communities safe.”
When Slaughter asked what changes to the violence policy they would accept, Black and VanVickle had no answer, but said the five days in the session on lame ducks were not enough time for their legal experts to work out alternatives .
That sentiment was borne out by senior Republican on the committee, Murphysboro MP Terri Bryant.
“(The) lame duck session is not the time to work out a 600-, maybe 1000-page issue of something that important,” she said. “Too often the legislature wants to do something, even if it is wrong. So we do the right things and we do it right.”
Slaughter and Senator Elgie Sims, D-Chicago, who also drafted the legislation, pushed back the notion that the bill was rushed and pointed to the nine Black Caucus hearings on criminal justice reform. Most of the issues discussed in these hearings, which approximated a total of 30 hours and covered both the IACP and the ISA, are included in the amendment.
Body cameras would be mandatory for all law enforcement agencies under the law. Larger agencies would need to have cameras by January 1, 2022, and all agencies would need to have cameras by 2025.
Any township or county whose law enforcement agency does not comply would reduce the state’s Local Government Distributive Fund contributions by 20 percent each year until they meet the requirements. The LGDF is the portion of state income tax revenue that goes to cities and counties.
The Illinois Fraternal Order of Police and the Chicago FOP refer to the Black Caucus legislation as “Defund the Police Bill” because of this provision.
Slaughter denies this characterization as it gives law enforcement time to comply and does not cut funding entirely.
“We cannot afford not to make the changes we are asking for,” Sims said on Sunday, referring to a 2020 study by Citigroup economists that the US has lost $ 16 trillion in GDP since 2000, which is directly due to racism.
The Black Caucus points to the losses in potential tax revenue due to racist practices, as well as the massive settlement cities paid each year for police misconduct as a cost of failing to comply with their laws.
The written amendment does not provide law enforcement assistance with the acquisition and implementation of body cameras. VanVickle and Black testified that if they received tax assistance from the state and the financial penalty for non-compliance were removed, they would support mandatory body cameras.
Brad Cole, former Carbondale mayor and executive director of the Illinois Municipal League, said IML is opposed to any action that would affect LGDF. However, IML supports mandatory body cameras as long as the time span can be extended by a few years.
In the meantime, a provision in the amendment would prevent law enforcement unions from negotiating jointly on issues of discipline and dismissal of officials.
Cole said the IML supported the move to give cities more power over discipline and dismissal of officials.
However, Tamara Cummings, Attorney General for the Illinois Fraternal Order of Police Labor Council, said the move would turn officials into “second class citizens” and said there are already restrictions on their collective bargaining powers that other private or public unions are not subject to.
Cummings said the idea that police unions prevent bad cops from being fired is “a myth” and said only 2% of dismissal cases for union officials are challenged against arbitration.
The AFL-CIO, the largest trade union federation in the US, issued a statement saying it “stands strong behind the efforts of the Black Caucus Legislature to address social justice and comprehensive criminal justice reform as soon as possible “.
But it added, “We are opposed to the current language in a component of the legislative package that would strip critical bargaining rights for union members across Illinois, including the black and brown communities that lawmakers are trying to uproot.”
In a provision called the Police Integrity and Accountability Act, HB163 would hold law enforcement officers personally liable for violations of the rights of a person guaranteed in the Illinois Constitution, while expressly waiving qualified defense immunity. Qualified immunity provides immunity from civil claims to government officials and workers as part of their duties.
Law enforcement groups have claimed the waiver of qualified immunity would leave police officers open to frivolous lawsuits. “They will lose their homes for simple mistakes,” said Cummings.
Peter Hanna, legal advisor for the ACLU of Illinois, said opponents of the provision misconstrued what qualified immunity actually does. According to Hanna, the officers still have legal protection, but now victims of police misconduct, whose constitutional rights have been violated, can seek remedial action from individual officers who have jurisdiction in a civil court.
Cole and the IML opposed the provision on the grounds that it would create “absolute liability” for civil servants and could result in Illinois municipalities losing their insurance, helping to pay settlements for government wrongdoing.
• Calls on officials to identify themselves as peace officers and to warn that lethal force will be used before such force is used.
• Changes acceptable forms of violence; prohibits chokeholds and handcuffs over the shoulder that could restrict a suspect’s ability to breathe.
• Says officers must not use force as punishment or retaliation, use non-lethal projectiles to hit a person’s head, groin, back, or shoot them indiscriminately into a crowd. The officers also prevented the use of tear gas or pepper spray without first issuing a warning and giving “sufficient time and space” to follow the instruction.
• Says officers cannot make an escaping suspect violent unless the suspect has just injured or attempted to injure another person, is in possession of a lethal weapon, is considered an active threat to human life, or can could not be safely arrested at any other time.
• Urges officers to prevent any illegal use of force by any other officer in their presence, regardless of chain of command. You must also report the offending officers with provisions that make it a criminal offense to seek revenge.
• Holds officials individually liable for lawsuits that violate any person’s rights guaranteed under the Illinois Constitution.
• Removes civil servants’ discipline and dismissal from collective bargaining.
• Eliminates cash bail as a prerequisite for pre-trial release; replaces it with a set of pre-trial release conditions set by the Illinois Supreme Court.
• Says if a person dies in police custody or as a result of the use of force by an officer, law enforcement must investigate and submit a full report in writing to the Illinois Attorney General within 30 days. The AG is obliged to make reports publicly available on its website.