On Monday, Democratic Governor J.B. Pritzker of Illinois signed a bill that is reportedly set to reform the criminal justice system and policing in the state. The bill not only includes massive police reforms, but it also makes Illinois the first state in the country to completely get rid of cash bail.
After signing House Bill 3653 into law, NBC News reports that Pritzker said the legislation comes at a critical time as calls have come from across the nation to address racial bias in the justice system, having grown stronger after the killing of George Floyd in May.
“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,” he said. “All of this was fueled by the experiences of those who have lived with police brutality and discrimination in this terrible year in the middle of a brutal viral pandemic that hurt black people and brown people disproportionately.”
One of the most notable parts of the bill is the abolishment of the system of cash bail. This section is under the Illinois Pretrial Fairness Act, a part of HB 3653. NBC News reports, “The new law eliminates wealth-based detention and instead gives judges a more strictly defined decisionmaking process based on a real risk of present threat or willful flight.” It also includes some of the most extensive police reforms, such as “a requirement that all police officers wear body cameras by 2025, a ban on all police chokeholds, new guidelines for ‘decertification’ of police officers, and statewide standards and services for officers to receive regular confidential mental health screenings and assistance.”
Under HB 3653, police departments are also not allowed to purchase specific military equipment, “such as firearms and ammunition of .50-caliber or higher and tracked armored vehicles.”
The bill has received criticism from Illinois police and politicians, at one point calling the measure “a blatant move to punish an entire, honorable profession that will end up hurting law-abiding citizens the most,” according to Fox News.
Several Republican state legislators also said that the bill was hurried through the process during a lame-duck session.
In a statement provided to Fox News on Wednesday, a group of law enforcement agencies in Illinois criticized Pritzker for reportedly choosing “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.”
“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,” continues the statement by the Illinois Law Enforcement Coalition. “Please don’t let us measure its dismal failure by the shattered lives it produces.”
Community groups that worked on the law have said that the bill came together over many years and was a long time coming for communities of color in Illinois.
The Coalition to End Money Bond, which was reportedly heavily involved in the bill over the years, said in a statement that the bill was developed in response to the Black Lives Matter protests that occurred around the state and country last summer.
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