SPRINGFIELD — Democratic Champaign County Sheriff Dustin Heuerman said he stands ready to work with Illinois lawmakers on sweeping changes they approved Wednesday in the state’s criminal-justice system.
“I’m disappointed in the manner in which it was passed,” he said Wednesday. “But the bill this morning was better than the bill last night.”
The massive bill includes changes in police use-of-force standards, an eventual requirement for officers to wear body cameras and, starting in 2023, replacing bail bonds and with a yet-to-be-developed system of pretrial release.
State Sen. Chapin Rose, R-Mahomet, said the bill was approved in his chamber over his opposition in a rushed middle-of-the-night process that included being given 58 minutes before the vote to try to digest 764 pages.
“Not one person on that floor knew what was in the bill,” he said. “They might have had a general idea. They might have known some stuff was in and some stuff was out.”
State Rep. Mike Marron, R-Fithian, said he opposed not just the bill itself but also how it was “rushed through.”
“I thought that was very bad procedure,” he said.
Marron said he particularly had a problem with ending cash bail, especially for violent criminals who could pose a danger to victims and witnesses.
Overall, Marron said, the bill “sends a very bad message to police officers. I mean, I really view this bill as an attack on law enforcement.”
Rose called the impact on police unconscionable.
“To do this to the men and women who put their lives on the line every day to protect our communities, to do this to them, their children, their spouses, I mean in this manner, is unconscionable,” he said. “They are toying with these peoples’ lives in a way that will not only make them unsafe, but our communities unsafe.”
Two Democratic state legislators contacted for this story, Rep. Carol Ammons of Urbana and Sen. Scott Bennett of Champaign, could not immediately be reached Wednesday.
Included in the final version were initiatives by Attorney General Kwame Raoul to improve police certification and decertification policies, to conduct pattern-and-practices investigations of civil-rights violations by police and to improve services for crime survivors.
Heuerman said while he’s not happy with the bill and wishes legislators had spent more time on it before it was passed, he also sees some good points in it.
“I think it helps us get unethical officers off the streets faster with the attorney general’s certification bill that was wrapped up in this,” he said.
Another advantage, he said, is the bill requires candidates running for sheriff to have law-enforcement certification.
“You have to have knowledge of this job to do this job,” he said.
But, while he doesn’t believe people should be kept locked up in jail simply because they can’t afford to pay the bond, Heuerman said he also thinks police officers will be given too much discretion to make the decision to take someone to jail or not based on their own opinions of whether that person is a safety risk.
He also said law enforcement will have to identify a specific person who would be at risk from someone charged with a crime in order to justify not releasing the accused prior to trial.
Much of the time, that won’t be an issue, Heuerman said, but there are instances in which it will — for example, when someone has been arrested for shooting into a crowd.
“These are questions we need to figure out,” he said.
Heuerman said he is in favor of criminal-justice reform and pretrial reform.
“I just want our legislators to work with us,” he said.