Illinois Governor signs criminal justice reform bill into law; Local law enforcement disagree

Illinois Governor JB Pritzker signed a criminal justice reform bill into law on Monday, but it comes with some controversy after concerns from local law enforcement.

Posted: Feb 22, 2021 6:38 PM
Updated: Feb 23, 2021 2:16 PM

CLARK COUNTY, Ill. (WTHI) - Illinois Governor JB Pritzker signed a criminal justice reform bill into law on Monday, but it comes with some controversy after concerns from local law enforcement.

The law eliminates cash bail for inmates within two years. It mandates the use of police body cameras for all officers by 2025. It enhances de-escalation training for police officers, and officers can now only use deadly force when victims are in imminent danger.

News 10 spoke with Clark County, Illinois Sheriff Bill Brown on Monday afternoon to gauge his reaction to the bill being signed into law. Sheriff Brown says this law truly concerns him for the safety of Illinois citizens, and he feels it hinders police officers to do their jobs effectively.

During Governor Pritzker’s press conference on Monday afternoon, he said the bill accomplishes three criminal justice priorities for his administration. First, it transforms the pre-trial detention system. Governor Pritzker says this is so low-income individuals aren’t put in jail while the “wealthy walk free”. Next, it diverts low-level drug crimes into substance treatment programs. Last, it reduces excessive stays in prison. He says this law will make Illinois a safer place.

Sheriff Brown says he is all for accountability and for true justice. However, he feels the points in the law would make real-life scenarios hard for officers.

Both he and Governor Pritzker spoke about their opinions on the new legislation on Monday afternoon.

“This legislation marks a substantial step towards dismantling the systemic racism that plagues our communities, our state, and our nation,” Governor Pritzker said, “It brings us closer to true safety, true fairness, and true justice.”

It’s really going to affect the citizens and how we can do our job as compared to how we could do it in the past,” Sheriff Brown contended, “It’s a bad bill for law enforcement. It’s a bad bill for the citizens of the State of Illinois and, specifically for me, the citizens of Clark County.”

Sheriff Brown watched Governor Pritzker sign the new legislation into law on Monday. Just a week ago, he presented scenarios to the Clark County Board on how this bill will affect the safety of citizens in Illinois and affect the ability of police officers to do their jobs effectively.

For instance, Sheriff Brown used the situation of an active school shooter as an example. Police arrive at the scene, but the suspect flees. The officers catch up to the suspect, but they are no longer putting people in danger at that specific point in time. Officers now, under this new legislation, cannot use force against that suspect even though they shot at people just moments ago.

Sheriff Brown used this, among other real-life examples, to show why he and other County Sheriffs are concerned.

“I take it so personal for the safety of the citizens of this county,” Sheriff Brown explained, “If they would have just taken time and sat down with all the parties involved, we could have come up with a good bill.”

Sheriff Brown outlined what he would like to see happen moving forward although this bill was signed into law.

“What my hope is, is that there will be trailer bills that come along behind it that will clean this thing up,” Sheriff Brown concluded, “I think when the citizens of this state get information like we are sharing right now—how many people will call their legislators and say, ‘what have you done? Why have you put our kids in this kind of danger?’ You know, 120,000 people signed a petition saying, ‘hey, Governor. This is bad. This is not good.’ He doesn’t care.”

Sheriff Brown says he and his sheriff’s office will continue to serve the people of Clark County under the law with a priority in keeping citizens safe.

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