Bill would cut police qualified immunity, remove union protection for officers accused of disciplinary issues

SPRINGFIELD, IL- The war on police continues, this time in Illinois. Law Enforcement Today was notified of a so-called “police reform” bill that has been proposed, HB-163 which would, as the Chicago Fraternal Order of Police says, “eliminate[s] law enforcement as we know it.”

The 611 page bill would serve, according to the FOP, to eliminate all protections for law enforcement officers, including qualified immunity. The bill would also prohibit officers from being represented by collective bargaining units, aka unions.

The bill would also invalidate the constitutionally protected due process rights of officers.

The “reform” bill would:

  • Eliminate qualified immunity
  • Eliminates collective bargaining rights
  • Eliminates arbitration over residency requirements
  • Allow for unrestricted and ungoverned disciplinary policies of law enforcement officers
  • Prohibits departments from participating in government surplus procurement programs
  • Would allow officers to be punished or fired based on anonymous or unsubstantiated [emphasis added] or unverifiable complaints
  • Would allow those unsubstantiated and unverified complaints to be maintained on file, to be used against officers during future complaints with no timeline for their removal from files and no limits how they can be utilized to inflict harm on officers
  • Increases initial and ongoing educational requirements on officers with no compensation to pay for the increased cost, nor any assurances the courses will even be offered
  • Mandates the use of body cameras by all departments for every officer with not reimbursement to cities and towns; in other words an unfunded mandate on Illinois communities
  • Defunds any department which doesn’t 100% comply with these mandates
  • Eliminates funding for law enforcement agencies; eliminates cash bail; enacts numerous benefits for felons
  • Puts significant limits on use of force, and makes officers criminally liable for virtually any use of force
  • Removes prohibitions against obstructing police officers
  • Charges officers with Official Misconduct, a Class 3 felony, for “trivial and incidental issues.”

The bill was introduced by the Illinois Legislative Black Caucus and is being fast-tracked through the legislature during the current “lame duck” session, which runs from Jan. 8 to Jan. 13. The bill was introduced by Sen. Elgie Sims (D-Chicago). The bill serves as a 611 page amendment to HB 163.

The bill was the result of over 100 hours of hearings held by the LBC over thee fall and winter months as part of a push to “end systemic racism in Illinois,” according to the Quad-City Times.

Under use of force provisions of the bill, it would establish guidelines under a “Statewide Use of Force Standardization Act.”

The act would require police officers to “warn that deadly force will be used before use of force.”

Officers would also be prevented from using force on a fleeing suspect unless that person has just harmed or attempted to harm another person, is in possession of a deadly weapon, is considered an active threat to human life, or is unable to be apprehended safely at another date. In other words, police need to be psychics.

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Those changes come in knee-jerk response to the deaths of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor last year. The bill would ban chokeholds, or any restraints on an individual above their shoulders.

Officers would also be prevented from using tear gas or pepper spray without first issuing a warning and allowing “sufficient time and space” to follow the order. In other words, they are completely tying the hands of police officers to use less-lethal force.

Under the elimination of qualified immunity, police officers would be individually liable for lawsuits if they violated the rights of someone under the Illinois Constitution. The proposed law explicitly says qualified immunity is not a defense to liability.

Under the portion of the bill gutting collective bargaining rights, the bill would change the Illinois Public Labor Relations Act, specifically targeting police unions.

Under the changes, employers, i.e. municipal governments, would not be required to negotiate with unions regarding the discipline or discharge of law enforcement. The bill would require that any contracts between police unions and cities/towns which include provisions regarding discipline and termination would have those sections voided when those contracts are either extended or renegotiated.

In addition, no agreement applying to police officers, including the Illinois State Police would be able to include a provision unrelated to wages or benefits.

The bill would eliminate cash bail requirements for pretrial release; this is called the “Pretrial Fairness Act.” Sounds more like the “Get out of Jail Free” Act.

The bill would eliminate cash bail requirements for people charged with criminal offenses and misdemeanors, to be replaced with uniform pretrial release conditions established by the Illinois Supreme Court.

This was proposed because proponents feel cash bail targets the poor and minorities, and it also contributes to mass incarceration of these groups for “minor” crimes.

Aside from the Chicago FOP, other police officials have come out strongly against the bill, according to CIProud.com.  

Tazewell County Sheriff Jeff Lower said, “In essence, the bill defunds the police.”

“We all agree there needs to be reform. Hands down,” Peoria County Sheriff Brian Asbell said.

“I just don’t know that this bill, the way it’s written, and everything they place in this, is the way to do it. And actually, I saw it’s not. It’s dangerous. It’s dangerous again for public safety, and for the profession itself.”

Both sheriffs believe the bill is being rushed through in the lame-duck session, and believe it needs additional time to be discussed more thoroughly prior to any rash decisions.

“It would cause, well, a mass exodus,” Lower said.

“Anybody that’s able to retire would retire and we wouldn’t be able to hire somebody to do the job simply because they don’t want to get sued for doing the job.”

Lower also noted that the body camera requirement, an unfunded mandate would cost his office over half a million dollars, a price tag they cannot afford.

The sheriffs are not alone. The Illinois Sheriff’s Association wrote on Facebook:

“This is not police reform. This is an attack on the law enforcement profession which will not only destroy your livelihood but also endangers the safety of citizens throughout Illinois.”

Possible Policing Changes During Lame Duck Session!

Posted by Illinois Sheriffs’ Association on Tuesday, January 5, 2021

Statement on HB 163 as Amended

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

January 6, 2021

Contacts listed at end of release

Illinois Law…

Posted by Illinois Sheriffs’ Association on Wednesday, January 6, 2021

Meanwhile, the Illinois Law Enforcement Coalition released a statement saying:

“The so-called ‘reforms’ that are part of House Bill 163 as amended would destroy law enforcement’s ability to keep communities safe.

The authors of this legislation are not law enforcement professionals with hundreds of years of combined experience and this bill was drafted without law enforcement input, and because of that the long-term unintended consequences of this legislation would be dire.

“The Illinois Law Enforcement Coalition recently enumerated its Safe Communities Plan, a sensible approach to modernizing Illinois law enforcement, but House Bill 163 as amended would lead to unsafe communities in Illinois.

We urge the Illinois General Assembly to avoid making a sudden rash decision in the Lame Duck Session and instead work carefully with all stakeholders to truly examine what needs to be done regarding law enforcement in Illinois.”

When you have people with zero law enforcement experience dictating feel-good legislation, it’s a recipe for disaster. We have seen this across the country by people who still obsess over the George Floyd death, something that shouldn’t have happened, but an incident that had a lot of moving parts outside of the police response.

Hopefully the Illinois state legislature thinks long and hard before passing this short-sighted, ridiculous amendment.

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Author: Pat Droney

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