Gov. Pritzker signs controversial justice reform bill

Updated: Feb. 22, 2021 at 12:10 PM CST
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CHICAGO, Ill. (KFVS) - Governor JB Pritzker signed HB 3653, a criminal justice and police reform bill, at Chicago State University at noon on Monday, February 22.

Gov. Pritzker was joined by lawmakers, members of law enforcement and community advocates.

“This legislation marks a substantial step toward dismantling the systemic racism that plagues our communities, our state and our nation and brings us closer to true safety, true fairness and true justice,” said Governor JB Pritzker. “In this terrible year, in the middle of a brutal viral pandemic that hurt Black people and Brown people disproportionately, lawmakers fought to address the pandemic of systemic racism in the wake of national protests. This bill was also infused with solutions from individuals most directly impacted: survivors of domestic violence, survivors of crime, and those who have been detained pre-trial only because they are poor. Today we advance our values in the law – progress secured despite the pandemic, because of the passion and push of the Legislative Black Caucus, activists, advocates, and residents intent on leaving a better Illinois for all our children.”

The legislation will make sweeping changes to the state’s criminal justice system including ending cash bail which would allow defendants to go free at a judge’s discretion without bail while they await trial.

  • Moves Illinois from a system of pretrial detention that prioritizes wealth, to one that prioritizes public safety.
  • Diverts low-level drug crimes into substance use programs and treatments.
  • Modernizes sentencing laws and streamlines the victims’ compensation system.
  • Requires more investments in officer training, mental health, and officer wellness.
  • Expands training opportunities for officers, requires health and wellness services for officers, and protects officers from unjust lawsuits based on their reasonable actions.
  • Sets statewide standards on use of force, crowd control responses, de-escalation, and arrest techniques.
  • Requires the use of body-worn cameras by police departments statewide.
  • Professionalizes policing through the creation of a more robust certification system and lays out clear standards and processes for decertification.
  • Expands accountability across police departments by requiring the permanent retention of police misconduct records and removes the sworn affidavit requirement when filing police misconduct complaints.
  • Requires police departments to develop plans to protect vulnerable people present during search warrant raids.
  • Eliminates license suspensions for unpaid fines and fees due to red light camera and traffic offenses.
  • Ends prison gerrymandering.
  • Expands services for crime victims.

HB 3653 was the result of years of work by community advocates, lawmakers, and members of law enforcement.

The legislation was an initiative of the Illinois Legislative Black Caucus and the culmination of nine public hearings, 30 hours of testimony, and countless meetings with law enforcement, community members, and advocates.

The measure passed the House and Senate during a Lame Duck Session in January.

Law enforcement groups and Senator Dale Fowler opposed the bill and called it dangerous.

“This bill is a dangerous proposal that makes it easier for offenders to commit violent crimes, eliminates cash bail and endangers the safety of our citizens,” said Sen. Fowler in a released statement.

Sen. Fowler issued the following statement on Monday:

“I do not support the actions taken by our Governor today to enact a law that will make it harder for police officers to do their jobs. I stand in support of my local law enforcement officers and agencies who have vocally opposed this legislation.

“House Bill 3653 was rammed through the General Assembly in a closed-door process that left Republican lawmakers, law enforcement officials and members of the public out of the discussion. We cannot pass meaningful reforms if the process is one-sided.

“Now that we’ve had adequate time to work through the nearly 800-page bill, we know that it makes sweeping changes to the criminal justice system of our state, endangers our communities by eliminating cash bail and places an unfunded financial burden on our local police forces.

“We had a real opportunity to work together to pass substantive reforms to provide for a safer Illinois. We can achieve so much more for our state if we work together. It’s disappointing and frustrating.”

The Illinois Law Enforcement Coalition said the action legislators took “made Illinois less safe.”

The coalition believes HB 3653 will tie the hands of police officers as they work to track down suspects and make arrests.

They issued the following statement on Monday.

“In signing this bill into law, Governor Pritzker chose to listen to a few strident political voices rather than the 120,000 petition signing citizens who plainly saw the bill for what it is. This new law is a blatant move to punish an entire, honorable profession that will end up hurting law-abiding citizens the most. Because we are sworn to protect and serve the public, we sincerely hope that we will not be proven right about this new law, that it won’t cause police officers to leave the profession in droves and handcuff those who remain so they can’t stop crimes against people and property. Please don’t let us measure its dismal failure by the shattered lives it produces. We urge all citizens to remember who supported this law, and keep that in mind the next time they look to the police in Illinois for the protection they can no longer provide.”

Former Illinois State Senator Paul Schimpf, a Republican governor candidate, also issued a statement on Monday.

“By signing HB 3653 into law today, JB Pritzker failed the people of Illinois in terms of both policy and leadership. Adamantly opposed by nearly all Illinois law enforcement leaders, HB 3653 makes Illinois communities and families less safe. Even more troubling, the legislation’s passage during an overnight, lame-duck session vote lacked meaningful scrutiny and review. As Governor, I will veto all legislation that fails to comply with minimum levels of transparency.”

Lawmakers who supported the reform bill believe the measure will rid Illinois of systemic racism.

Elgie Sims, a Democrat Senator from Chicago’s southside, is among the 60 senators who voted in favor of the bill.

“I believe it is the first step to transforming criminal justice in Illinois in a way that will uplift our communities and support our law enforcement professionals,” said Sims.

The reform bill also requires all police officers to use body cameras, to go through additional training, prohibit chokeholds, require the maintenance of police misconduct records and require the use of special prosecutors in officer-involved deaths.

The legislation was developed last summer after months of policing-related protests across the state and the nation.

To view HB 3653, click here.

HB 3653 is effective July 1, 2021, except for certain provisions that are effective either January 1, 2022 (use of force changes), January 1, 2023 (Pretrial Fairness Act) and January 1, 2025 (prison gerrymandering).

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