Illinois HB 3653, a massive criminal justice reform bill was signed into law last month by Gov. J.B. Pritzker. Written by the Illinois Legislative Black Caucus, HB 3653 ends cash bail in the state on Jan. 1, 2023, requires every law enforcement agency to outfit their officers with body cameras, bans chokeholds, and does so much more.
Full disclosure here. I have not read the new Illinois law. It’s 764 pages, not a page-turner, and I just don’t have time. And I bet that puts me in good company with Gov. Pritzker because I am absolutely certain he never read it either. In my case I’m relying on second-hand information from a number of local journalists who cover the Illinois legislature. While Pritzker is probably relying on an executive summary written by the people who proposed this mess in the first place.
One of the primary goals of this legislation was to end cash bail in the name of racial equity. Supporters say it doesn’t prevent judges from incarcerating dangerous suspects with no bail, which is absolute horse excrement and they know it. Some judges are not going to hold people who haven’t been convicted of a crime indefinitely while they await trial, unless they are serial killer cannibals caught red-handed gnawing on the bones of their victims, and maybe even not then.
That means the gang member who was arrested after throwing shots at another gang member and managed to miss his target is going to be on the street in hours. And the cops in that jurisdiction will have to clean up the mess when he goes after the same guy again, misses again, and kills a nine-year-old girl.
It’s probably hard to believe but the no cash bail is not the dumbest part of this Illinois law, nor is it the part that is most dangerous for officers. A little reported element of this pile of anti-police activist wish fulfillment is that it enables anonymous complaints against officers. I’m not sure how that will work, but it has the potential to be a nuisance at best and a debilitating nightmare at worst. Write a guy a ticket? Expect an anonymous complaint. Arrest somebody’s uncle for cooking meth? Expect an anonymous complaint.
Body cameras are another focus of this law. It requires that all law enforcement officers in the state wear body cameras by 2025. The cameras are phased in beginning next year based on the size of the jurisdiction served. The state plans to help agencies pay for this with grants. Of course, they are grossly underestimating the cost because like so many politicians who advocate for body cameras, they have no idea what the storage will cost.
The unfunded mandate is not the only issue with the state’s new body camera requirements. Back in January Chief Patrick Kreis of the Vernon Hills Police Department said he planned to get rid of his agency’s body cams if the police reform bill became law. Kreis argued that the body camera sections of the law make officers guilty of a Class 3 felony if they fail to turn on the systems when dictated or fail to comply with any of the other body camera requirements under the law. The Vernon Hills PD does not fall under the mandate until 2025, so the chief hopes the law changes before it covers his agency.
The new law also requires officers to write their reports before viewing their body camera footage. There is no reason for this except to play “gotcha” with the officer and try to jam them up if they remember something differently about an incident than what the camera captured. The people who write laws like this should be required to so some research on what adrenaline and sensory deprivation do to people during mortal danger situations.
The new Illinois law was written with very little input from law enforcement or from the public. And it was shoved through a lame duck session of legislature late at night. Why? To prevent the opposition from having a say? To prevent public discussion?
Pritzker beamed ear to ear as he signed this anti-police, anti-public safety bill. Then he had the gall to say it promotes officer safety because of a couple of minor references to providing more mental health care for officers. And God knows those officers are going to need it, after they get charged with a Class 3 felony for forgetting to turn on their body cameras.
I guess if you don’t work in Illinois, this law probably doesn’t effect you. But the worry is that this law might be a template for other liberal states to hammer their officers.
As for those officers who do serve in Illinois, you have to organize to get parts of this law amended before it goes into effect. Barring that you have the choice of retiring, leaving the profession, lateraling to some other state, or finding a way to somehow work in this environment. It’s not going to be easy.