Overnight, the Illinois Senate passed one of the most dangerous anti-police bills America has ever seen

SPRINGFIELD, IL – In the early morning hours under the cover of darkness, the Illinois Senate passed a controversial, quietly renamed police reform bill which one police chief says will lead to “mass retirements and resignations in police departments across Illinois.”

At about 4:49 a.m. on Wednesday, the Senate passed the “criminal justice reform” House Bill 3653. The bill, proposed by the Legislative Black Caucus, would eliminate cash bail, remove qualified immunity for officers, and eliminate the felony murder charge among other changes.

The bill was originally H.B. 163 but was changed to H.B. 3653 after passage in the House when the Senate made amendments. The original H.B. 163 sponsor, State Representative Katie Stuart (D-Edwardsville), said Monday that she had no part in the changes to her bill, which was originally proposed as opioid legislation.

The bill was meant to be a prescription drug monitoring bill but was hijacked by a January 4, 600-page amendment added by legislators. Stuart withdrew her support, saying:

“I want to be very clear that the police reform language in Senate Amendment 2 to House Bill 163 is not something I had any input on. My original bill was rewritten by the Senate sponsors without my consultation.

“My original version of House Bill 163 was about changes to Illinois’ prescription monitoring program. My bill simply required that controlled substance prescriptions be reported to an electronic database on the same day they are dispensed. The goal was to address the opioid crisis by helping catch people who doctor shop to obtain fraudulent prescriptions for opioids.”

 

The bill would also permit officers to be disciplined or terminated based on anonymous or unsubstantiated complaints from the public without a sworn affidavit and would require those complaints to be kept on the officer’s record indefinitely.

The bill has been attacked by Republicans and police officials across the state. Winnebago County Sheriff Gary Caruana spoke at a press conference called by several local law enforcement and government leaders Tuesday.

Sheriff Caruana said of the legislation:

“This is not an attack on law enforcement. This is (an) attack on the community, on victims of crime, because what it does is prevent us from doing our jobs.”

The bill also prohibits the use of force in almost all situations and makes officers criminally liable for use of force.  Loves Park Police Chief Chuck Lynde reacted:

“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.”

Chief Lunde’s sentiments were echoed by Love Park Mayor Gary Jury:

“It’s just flat out foolish. I hope our representatives see that and stand up and make a choice.”

The bill includes the elimination of cash bail and mandates the release of certain criminals without awaiting trial if they cannot afford bond.

One of the most controversial sections of H.B. 3653 eliminates qualified immunity, which protects officers from being sued unless a plaintiff can show clearly established statutory or constitutional rights were violated. Without qualified immunity, an officer could be sued for any action.

Section 5.5 of the bill reads:

“A peace officer, as defined in Section 2-13 of the Code of 2012, who subjects or causes to be subjected, including by failing to intervene, any other person to the deprivation of any individual rights arising under the Illinois Constitution, is liable to the injured party for legal or equitable relief or any other appropriate relief.

Sovereign immunities and statutory immunities and statutory limitations on liability, damages, or attorney’s fees do not apply to claims brought under this Section. The Local Governmental and Governmental Employees Tort Immunity Act does not apply to claims brought under this Section.

 Qualified immunity is not a defense to liability under this Section.”

The United States Supreme Court recognized the importance of qualified immunity for officers in the decision of Pearson v. Callahan. In its decision, the court said:

 “Qualified immunity balances two important interests—the need to hold public officials accountable when they exercise power irresponsibly and the need to shield officials from harassment, distraction, and liability when they perform their duties reasonably.”

The bill, however, does not remove qualified immunity from government officials or judges. It only removes the protection from police officers.

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State Senator Jason Plummer (R-Edwardsville) attacked the rushed method of the bill’s passage. He posted a statement on his Facebook page:

This is it.  The criminal law overhaul bill. 764 pages.  We received it at 3:04 am.  Debate started at 4:01 am. Who could’ve possibly read and reviewed this bill in less than an hour?  This issue deserves a thorough and serious discussion.

“Sadly, it was instead jammed through the legislature during the early morning hours of this lame-duck session. This is not how our system of government is supposed to work. 

“These types of shenanigans do not lead to a healthy democracy and, in this instance, they make our law enforcement personnel, our families, and our communities less safe. It’s 4:49 am.  It just passed the Illinois State Senate.”

Sen. Plummer also attacked the process of hijacking H.B. 163 and changing the name, calling it “smoke and mirrors”:

“This is what they think of you, Illinois…You stood up loud and clear and let the Democrat majority know that you don’t support their radical anti-police legislation, HB163.  They saw that the vast majority of Illinoisans rejected these extreme ideas and so they’ve decided to no longer push HB163.

“But they think they can trick you.  Instead of standing with our law enforcement and listening to the voices of Illinoisans, they’ve moved the extreme language to new legislation, HB3653, and are pushing it.

“Smoke & Mirrors.  That’s all it is.  Stand with our police and keep our families and communities safe, tell the Democrat majority that Illinois doesn’t support their radical anti-police legislation and their extreme ideology, no matter the bill’s number.  This legislation is an attack on the law enforcement profession and endangers our families and communities.”

Glen Carbon Police Chief Todd Link issued a statement opposing the legislation, saying that the “reforms” will destroy law enforcement:

“(The bill) would effectively end professional law enforcement throughout the state of Illinois… Should this law become law, there would be no need to defund the police because it would lead to mass retirements and resignations in police departments across Illinois like those happening in Minneapolis, San Francisco, Seattle, Portland, and New York City.”

The Illinois State Attorneys Association opposed the bill, saying:

“(The bill) will profoundly undermine public safety and overturn long=standing common-sense policies and practices in the criminal justice system.”

Early today, The Southern Illinois Police Chiefs Association issued a statement as an open letter to citizens of Southern Illinois. The association states that many police executives object to the bill:

“It will have a devastating effect on the ability of Illinois police officers to keep their communities safe. One has to wonder why our legislators would rush a 600+ page piece of legislation, attempting to keep the contents hidden from those it will impact.”

House Bill 3653 will now be returned to the House for a concurrence vote.

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Author: Scott A. Davis

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