Elgie Sims

State Sen. Elgie Sims, D-Chicago, introduced a major police reform bill Thursday, a day before lawmakers were set to reconvene for legislative session.

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SPRINGFIELD — The Illinois Legislative Black Caucus has introduced a sweeping criminal justice omnibus bill that aims to heavily alter the state of policing in Illinois.

Sen. Elgie Sims, D-Chicago, introduced a 611-page amendment to House Bill 163 this week in the state Senate, a move that would allow the bill to be considered during the General Assembly’s upcoming lame-duck session scheduled for Friday through Wednesday.

While the bill has been introduced on short notice, it is the result of over 100 hours of hearings held by the Black caucus over fall and winter as part of its legislative agenda “to end systemic racism in Illinois.” Criminal justice reform and police accountability made up the first of four pillars in that agenda.

The bill has seen intense pushback from Republican lawmakers and groups representing law enforcement. The Illinois Fraternal Order of Police called it “the worst thing to happen to our profession” and “the end of the law-enforcement profession as we know it” in a statement.

The Chicago Fraternal Order of Police was also critical, saying “it might as well be a crime to be a law-enforcement officer in Illinois.”

State Rep. David Allen Welter, R-Morris, and state Sen. John Curran, R-Lemont, both released statements opposing it, with Welter calling it anti-police.

The legislation has received support from criminal-justice reform groups such as the Illinois Justice Project and the Building a Safe Illinois Coalition.

It contains several articles that would stand as new laws while along with amendments to key components of laws already on the books.

Here’s a look at what’s in the bill.

Use of force:

  • Authorities would have to identify themselves as peace officers and would not be allowed to use force on a fleeing suspect unless that person has just harmed or tried 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.

Officers cannot use deadly force against someone who is considered a threat to themselves but not others, or someone who is committing a property crime, unless the crime is terrorism or in conjunction with another crime where deadly force is authorized.

The bill would also amend the acceptable forms of force, banning chokeholds and any restraints above a person’s shoulders that can potentially limit their ability to breathe.

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.

Qualified immunity:

  • Article 5 would make police officers individually liable for lawsuits if they violate the rights of a person guaranteed under the Illinois Constitution. It explicitly states that qualified immunity is not a defense to liability.

Collective bargaining:

  • Under the new changes, employers, which would refer to municipal governments, would not be required to negotiate with unions on discipline or discharge of officers. Existing contracts between law-enforcement unions and cities that include provisions regarding discipline and termination would have those sections voided when those contracts are extended or renegotiated.

Pretrial detention: HB163 would eliminate cash bail as a requirement for pretrial release. All mentions of cash bail would be struck from Illinois statutes and replaced with pretrial release conditions. Proponents of eliminating cash bail have long argued it targets poor residents, especially those that are Black or Latino, and that the act of cash bail has contributed to the mass incarceration of these groups for otherwise minor crimes.

Capitol News Illinois is a nonprofit, nonpartisan news service covering state government and distributed to more than 400 newspapers statewide. It is funded primarily by the Illinois Press Foundation and the Robert R. McCormick Foundation.

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