Illinois passes police reform bill

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The Illinois General Assembly narrowly passed a sweeping criminal justice omnibus bill Wednesday in the hours before the 102nd General Assembly members were sworn in. 

The legislation had several controversial elements eliminated or reduced during private negotiations from labor unions, law enforcement groups and politicians, but the changes are still far-reaching. 

Some of the most consequential changes in the bill includes eliminating cash bail in 2023, limiting the use of force to only when an officer has determined it is necessary to defend themselves or others from bodily harm when making an arrest, requiring that all police officers to wear body cameras and making the process to decertify police officers easier.

Although some of the changes have been advocated for by law enforcement, groups representing them opposed the bill overall, saying it “gives many more advantages to criminals than police.” 

The package of laws passed the Senate 32-23 early Wednesday morning before obtaining the minimum needed to pass the House late Wednesday morning, with the final tally being 60-50 in that body. 

State Sen. Paul Schimpf (R-Waterloo) and state Rep. Nathan Reitz (D-Steeleville) both voted against the omnibus bill on the last day of their terms. The legislation now goes to Gov. JB Pritzker, who has indicated he favors at least some elements of it.  

Local law enforcement leaders were not in favor of the bill overall, even if they supported elements of it.

Monroe County Sheriff Neal Rohlfing said he was “dumbfounded” by the legislation.

“It’s nothing but an assault on law enforcement,” he said.

In Columbia, Deputy Chief of Police Jason Donjon was more measured but still had a mostly negative assessment of the omnibus bill.

“I am not opposed to criminal justice reform and believe we need to work with citizens constantly,” Donjon said. “No agency, officer, or human being is perfect; complacency in any department is detrimental. I feel (the bill) goes much too far and would result in an increase in violent crime, undermine public safety and deny justice to crime victims.” 

For a detailed breakdown of the new law and local law enforcement reaction, read next week’s issue of the Republic-Times.

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