The Illinois Senate passed a sweeping and highly controversial police and criminal justice reform bill early in the morning on Wednesday January 13th. The House passed it that afternoon. This bill was created in direct response to the uptick in attention paid to police officers’ use of force, cash bail, and qualified immunity concerns- many issues that have come to the forefront in the aftermath of George Floyd’s death in May 2020- and with the support of democratic politicians and activists. Many states are visiting similar police reforms bills and considering ways to improve police transparency and accountability.
However, while the changes proposed in this legislation are sold as ways to improve accountability and effectiveness of officers while promoting safety for the community, the true consequences of these sweeping changes will be far more bleak. Both republican and democratic officials would like to see safer communities with positive relationships between officers and those they serve, but the way progressive officials are currently pursuing these means will have the opposite effect and will create long term damage not easily undone.
A Chicago Sun Times news article published on January 15th, 2021 stated that “in Chicago, 560 officers retired in 2020 in a police department that had about 13,100 sworn officers as of March, records show. That’s about 15% more cops retiring than during the previous year, when the number of retirements rose by nearly 30%.” Many of these staffing losses are directly related to the anti-police rhetoric and calls to defund the police within the past few years.
This new police reform bill will only increase the number of officers quitting and retiring, will kill morale within the officers that do stay, and will wreak havoc on communities throughout Illinois as repeat offenders are freed and the already thinly stretched departments will have to choose where to direct their officers and which calls to take. This will inevitably cause the already skyrocketing crime rate to rise even further, as police will be unable to keep felons off the street and will have to judge which calls to respond to as they face low retention rates and budget cuts.
Law enforcement leaders have been clear on the potential dangers of this bill, but have wholly gone ignored. In response to the bill being passed, Loves Park Police Chief Chuck Lynde said: “It will make it difficult, if not impossible, to hold suspects in custody when they have been accused of crimes. It prevents the use of force in almost all situations, including those which are life threatening.” Sheriff Jack Campbell of Sangamon County made a statement saying, “devastating legislation passed in the middle of the night… will negatively impact your safety.”
Illinois citizens that support law enforcement, the rule of law, and safer communities are urged to contact their representatives and urge them to do a better job of supporting our invaluable law enforcement. There is still time to call or email Illinois Governor JB Pritzker and demand that he vetoes this bill. Reach out and voice your support to your local police department. Although this bill has passed the House and Senate, there is still an opportunity for change- but it will require citizens to stand up and raise their voices against this dangerous bill.
The death of George Floyd on May 25, 2020 has been the catalyst for the civil unrest throughout our great country. He has become a symbol beyond himself to the progressives that want to see police departments across the U.S. defunded and disbanded.