Illinois Department of Children and Family Services Headquarters in Springfield | Photo: Google Street View

Lawmakers recently passed a bill that will allow Department of Children and Family Services workers in Illinois to carry pepper spray for defensive purposes.

Senate Bill 1486 amends the Children and Family Services Act to allow frontline staff members to carry personal protection spray devices, such as mace and pepper spray.

The bill says they can carry the spray for defensive purposes in the course of investigating abuse and neglect cases.

Employees would be required to complete a short training program from the Illinois State Police on the proper use of pepper spray.

State Representative Tom Weber (R-Lake Villa), a sponsor of the legislation, said the bill aims to give caseworkers more protection.

“In an ideal world, caseworkers would never have to use the pepper spray, but that ignores the reality of the important, but difficult and sometimes dangerous, work they’re doing,” Weber said.

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In January, Diedra Silas, a caseworker with DCFS, was stabbed to death while performing a home visit.

DCFS caseworker Pam Knight was also brutally attacked in 2017 while taking a child into DCFS custody. She later died from her injuries.

“Obviously we need to do a lot more at DCFS to protect both our frontline workers and our children, but this is a good step in the right direction,” Weber said.

“I’m hopeful that this provides some peace of mind to caseworkers and, god forbid they need to use it, some protection,” he added.

SB 1486 passed the Illinois Senate unanimously and the Illinois House on a bipartisan 100-4 vote earlier this month. It is awaiting the signature of Illinois Gov. JB Pritzker.