Sweeping criminal justice reform bill went into effect in Illinois Thursday

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. — Starting Thursday, the first parts of a sweeping criminal justice reform bill Gov. Pritzker signed back in February went into effect.

The 764-page law was supplemented by an eight-page “trailer bill” that made minor fixes. The law was passed in the wake of George Floyd’s murder amid calls for racial justice and police reform.

Before it was law, the bill was widely debated and opposed by many police organizations.

State Senator Elgie Sims spearheaded the bill in the legislature and said its goal is to restore broken trust between the police and the public.

“It fundamentally changes the way we do policing in this state, it fundamentally reimagines how we look at criminal justice in this state,” State Sen. Elgie Sims (17th District).

It also acts to require police body cameras by 2025 and expand police training and instances in which officers can be stripped of certification.

“One that marks a transformative step in moving Illinois forward is Illinois’ effort to lead the country in dismantling systemic racism,” Pritzker said back in February.

The bill also expands new procedures for no-knock warrants and offers suspects who are arrested three phone calls instead of one.

The centerpiece of the massive law is ending cash bail. Almost everyone would be released from jail while awaiting trial unless a judge decides otherwise. It will not be implemented however until 2023.

The reforms also provide more rights for people accused of crimes and victims. People in police custody will be allowed to make three phone calls. While barriers are removed to help more people access the state’s victims’ compensation program.

Starting Thursday, all officers in Illinois will have legally-binding duties to render aid and life-saving assistance if someone is injured. They also are legally-binded to intervene if another officer is using excessive force.

Officers will also be limited on how they can use force. Chokeholds will be banned and the use of rubber bullets and tasers will be restricted — officers cannot aim them at someone’s head, neck, chest or groin.

By 2025, all officers across the state will be required to use body cameras.

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