SPRINGFIELD – Illinois lawmakers have approved an expansive criminal justice and police reform bill.
The legislation is hundreds of pages long, setting statewide standards for the use of force, making sure suspects in custody get three phone calls, ending cash bail and phasing in a body camera mandate for police departments. Representative Patrick Windhorst of Metropolis voted against the measure, saying it will decrease public safety.
Opponents also question the cost to departments and if less people will want to be police officers under the new rules. Supporters argue change is needed to end police brutality and racism. It will now be up to the governor to consider.
State Representative Dave Severin (R-Benton) voted no on a massive legislative package that he says will hamper law enforcement’s ability to do their job and make Illinois a more dangerous place to live. Legislative shell games played by the Democratic Majority in the House saw the bill’s original vehicle changed from HB 163 to HB 3653 in the waning hours of the 101st General Assembly. HB 163 as amended received more than 20,000 opponents listed on the record.
Severin says the process for passing the bill was bad, but the contents of the bill are worse.
“The Illinois Capitol and the legislative business that happens under the Dome or in the Bank of Springfield Center is run by Mike Madigan and Chicago Democrats,” Severin said. “Unfortunately, we’ve become used to bad process and dead of the night schemes in Illinois. What makes this situation different is the Democratic majority stifled debate and silenced the voices of the minority party. We don’t always win, but we always at least get a debate on the issues. We were standing with our communities, with our police, and with the citizens that have reached out to express their opposition to the policies contained in the legislation that takes direct aim at our law enforcement officials, the hundreds of pages of new mandates and restrictions on police, and language that quite frankly favors criminals over cops.”
Multiple subject matter House Judiciary Criminal Law Committee hearings revealed that police organizations and labor unions across the state were united in strong opposition to the new changes and restrictions contained in HB 3653 as amended. Severin says leaving out key stakeholders sets a bad precedent for crafting public policy going forward.
“This is not the way to conduct the peoples’ business. The Senate passed the bill at 5 in the morning and the House passed it 4 hours later with less than an hour of debate,” Severin said. “That kind of heavy-handed display of raw political power is what turns people off to politics and leaves people ultimately disengaged and disenfranchised. I ask that the Governor veto this irresponsible legislation and implore Democrats to work with Republicans, law enforcement, and labor to provide legislative fixes for the many fatal flaws contained in the legislation as it passed the House and Senate.”
State Senator Dale Fowler (R-Harrisburg) issued the following statement in opposition to the measure:
“In the early hours of the morning, Democrat lawmakers dumped a 700-page criminal justice reform proposal on our desks, leaving us no time to review the measure in its entirety, seek public input or gather law enforcement feedback.
“This bill is a dangerous proposal that makes it easier for offenders to commit violent crimes, eliminates cash bail and endangers the safety of our citizens.
“I stand with the men and women of our law enforcement who bravely serve each-and-every day. I am beyond disappointed that this is how such a vitally important proposal was rammed through the Senate chamber, without full consideration of the consequences this bill will have on our law enforcement profession and the well-being and safety of our communities.
“This is not how reform should be done and this is not a bill I support.”
House Bill 3653 passed the Senate by a vote of 32 to 23.
(Information for this story provided by the Illinois Department of Central Management Services Media and Marketing and from State Representative Dave Severin and State Senator Dale Fowler.)