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Gov. Pritzker, Lake County state’s attorney issue statements of support for criminal justice reform bill

Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker (left) and Lake County State’s Attorney Eric Rinehart (right).

Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker and Lake County State’s Attorney Eric Rinehart both signaled their support for the newly approved criminal justice reform bill, which ends cash bail and implements police reform measures.

House Bill 3653 — formerly House Bill 163 — passed by a 60-50 vote early Wednesday morning. The Senate passed the bill by a 32-23 vote.

It will change use-of-force guidelines, require body cameras for every police department in the state, end cash bail, and strip collective bargaining rights relating to discipline from police unions.

“The criminal justice reform bill that was passed today in Springfield will make all communities in Lake County safer. I am proud to say I support the bill, and that I was able to suggest improvements to the original version of the bill,” Rinehart said.

“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. In the coming weeks, I look forward to hosting community forums about other parts of the bill that were rejected, such as modifying qualified immunity protections for police departments,” he added.

“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,” Pritzker said.

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“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,” he added.

The legislation, which is the work of the Illinois Legislative Black Caucus, faced opposition from law enforcement groups and Republican lawmakers.

“The time is now,” said state Rep. Justin Slaughter, a Chicago Democrat who helped craft the bill. “The time is now to go from protests to progress.”

Illinois Sheriffs’ Association Executive Director Jim Kaitschuck said the measure is too broad and, if it gets approved by lawmakers, he would quit being a police officer immediately.

Some GOP lawmakers are saying they are not necessarily opposed, but the rapid nature outside the normal process is alarming and should not be passed during the lame duck session.

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“We are not on the right side of history,” state Rep. Andrew Chesney said.

“You want to pass a flawed bill that is not supported by labor, it is not supported by the sheriff’s association, it is not supported by the police chiefs. Everybody that we task to keep us safe say this makes you less safe,” Chesney added.

The legislation will also allow officers to be punished or fired based on anonymous complaints from the public and defunds any department that does not comply 100% with the requirements.

Ogle County Sheriff Brian VanVickle called the reforms catastrophic to law enforcement and feels they would make policing impossible for officers who have to make split-second decisions.

As soon as the bill passed the House, a clearly emotional Slaughter put a black glove on his right hand and raised his fist into the air.

The Illinois Law Enforcement Coalition said Wednesday that the bill was pushed through in the middle of the night with little transparency or time for constituents to weigh in on the legislation.

“In the dark of night, Illinois legislators made Illinois less safe. More than 112,000 citizens so far have signed a petition to oppose the community-endangering law enforcement legislation being rammed through the General Assembly, but how did the Senate respond to those constituent concerns? By introducing a 764-page amendment at 3:51 a.m. and shoving it through in the middle of the night before the people voting on it even had a chance to read it,” the group said in a statement.

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The group said it would hamper police officers. “It ties the hands of police officers while pursuing suspects and making arrests, and allows criminals to run free while out on bail,” the statement said.

“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.”

Illinois Attorney General Kwame Raoul applauded the Illinois General Assembly’s passage of the legislation.

“These certification reforms are the result of collaboration between my office, law enforcement, advocates and the sponsors – Rep. Justin Slaughter and Sen. Elgie Sims,” Raoul said.

“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.

“I applaud the tireless effort of the Illinois Legislative Black Caucus to address criminal justice reform in Illinois in a comprehensive manner,” he added.

The measure goes to Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s desk for final approval.

The Center Square and Lake and McHenry County Scanner both contributed to this story.