Illinois legislators pass sweeping police reforms, some in law enforcement call for veto

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SPRINGFIELD — As reformers applaud a criminal justice bill approved by Illinois lawmakers yesterday, some in law enforcement are calling on Governor JB Pritzker to veto it.

The bill passed by a slim margin in the Illinois House before it was approved by the Senate early Wednesday after hours of heated debate. Pritzker praised the package Wednesday, but hasn’t signaled if he’ll sign it yet.

Among measures included in the bill is a provision ending the cash bail system in Illinois. 

Ed Wojcicki, who heads up the Illinois Association of Chiefs of Police, said members of law enforcement argue the measure will make people less safe. 

“You’re going to see more criminals on the street because there aren’t enough safeguards in that cash bail language to really keep people in jail who need to stay in jail,” Wojcicki said.

Under the measure, judges would have discretion to order people held if they pose a risk.

Proponents like Tracy Siska of the Chicago Justice Project argue the current system unfairly hurts people who can’t afford to post bail.

“What you’re going to see is more equity around someone having to stay in jail or get out and going to eliminate the economic differences,” Siska said.

In a statement, Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx said:

“Eliminating cash bail ends the practice of detaining non-violent offenders simply because they are poor while also preventing violent offenders from being released because they can afford bail. Additionally, this legislation implements increased standards of police accountability and helps to rebuild public trust in the system.”

Community activist Ja’Mal Green called the cash bail system “ridiculous,” saying it kept people who committed nonviolent crimes in jail because they couldn’t afford bond.

“Law and order doesn’t get our communities together; investment in our communities will and we have to shift that conversation,” Green said.

The bill would also protect whistleblowers, not requiring them to sign a sworn affidavit when making a police misconduct report.

Additionally, it would allow the decertification of officers who engage in misconduct and require every police officer in the state to wear a body camera.

Some in law enforcement say that places an unfair financial burden on smaller departments who can’t afford the technology.

“Today there’s a lot of heads hanging in discouragement among police officers and leaders because this bill was passed and did not take into account the legitimate concerns of law enforcement,” Wojcicki said.

Siska argues police officers should have called for a camera requirement sooner since it helps them document what happens while they’re on the job. 

“This is a tool that can help exonerate officers from malicious complaints as well as prove officers are doing misconduct,” Siska said.

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