(The Center Square) – Members of the Illinois law enforcement community and House Republicans are urging the governor to veto a sweeping bill reforming the state’s system of justice. Gov. J.B. Pritzker said he plans a thorough review.
The 700-page bill passed the legislature in the final hours of the previous General Assembly. It was one of several pillars part of the Legislative Black Caucus agenda.
“It is no secret that there is a significant problem with the incarceration and criminalization of Black Americans, and this reckoning is long overdue,” said state Rep. Justin Slaughter, D-Chicago.
“This legislation is about confronting, addressing and dismantling the systemic racism that our criminal justice system is rooted in, and is inherent in our society. These critical reforms cannot wait. The time is now to create a criminal justice system that works for everyone,” Slaughter said.
House Minority Leader Jim Durkin, R-Western Springs, said there’s a place for reform, but not with language that didn’t get properly vetted. He urged the governor to veto the bill.
“Because this deals with our greatest responsibility and that is protecting our citizens which I believe will be compromised if this bill does go into law,” Durkin said.
He and others decried several provisions from limiting certain non-lethal police tactics to efforts to end cash bail, something Durkin said could put violent suspects back on the streets.
Others see that provision in a different light.
“Enactment of these reforms will go a long way to improving public safety,” said Sharone Mitchell Jr., Director of the Illinois Justice Project.
“No longer will anyone arrested – innocent pending trial – be required to pay for their freedom, but at the same time, judges will not be required to release anyone determined to be a threat to the community or unlikely to return for a court date.”
Joining Durkin in calling the governor to veto the bill, state Rep. Patrick Windhorst, R-Metropolis, said state law already allows for a judge to determine if a suspect can be freed on their own recognizance without paying bail.
Windhorst also worried if the measure becomes law, it will make the jobs of police more difficult. He said there’s conflicting language about the “duty to intervene.”
“This lack of clarity will also create uncertainty for officers, particularly given that an officer could be potentially decertified as a police officer based on that conduct,” Windhorst said.
Illinois Troopers Lodge #41 President Joe Moon said if the measure is enacted, he worries the morale of police will drop and good officers may leave the state, or the profession.
“I’ve already had a handful of calls from young officers, one and two years on, that are very concerned about this legislation and its impact on their ability to do their job,” Moon said.
He said law enforcement groups weren’t given a chance to fully review the measure’s final language before it passed.
Others criticized annual reports or body camera requirements as unfunded mandates on smaller police organizations throughout the state.
Pritzker on Wednesday said he supports many of the concepts of the measure and will review the bill.
“There are some of them that are hundreds of pages, we’re reviewing all the provisions in those pieces of legislation and I’ll be announcing decisions about them over the coming month or two,” Pritzker said.
As of Wednesday, the measure still had not been sent to the governor’s desk. Once it is, he’ll have up to two months to act one way or another.