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Illinois lawmakers weighing hotly-contested police reform bill in final days of session


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    SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (KMOV) — A bill that aims to reform criminal justice policies in Illinois is in front of the state’s general assembly, and has proved divisive between lawmakers and law enforcement officers.

House Bill 163 has been touted as a bold response to what its supporters see as major problems of racism and systemic inequality within the criminal justice system.

The bill proposes ending cash bail, prohibiting the use of chokeholds by officers, and increasing training on use of force. It also lays out a system in which a special prosecutor would be required in instances of officer-involved deaths, as well as strict codes of maintenance for officer misconduct files.

However, some law enforcement officers and prosecutors have raised concerns about the bill, namely that the proposed changes could put those in the public at risk.

Monday, State’s Attorney Tom Haine and Sheriff John Lakin issued a press release condemning the proposed legislation, calling it a “disaster for victims and public safety.”

“We stand absolutely opposed to the rushed passage of this incredibly bad bill,” said Haine and Lakin in their release. “In the name of reform, it effectively destroys law enforcement and criminal prosecution as we know it. It will be a disaster for victims and public safety by undermining – in multiple different ways – the ability of law enforcement and prosecutors to keep violent criminals off the streets.”

The opposition from Haine and Lakin focuses on their belief that, under the new legislation, potentially violent offenders would be harder to detain. They say that increases the risk to victims, witnesses, and the community.

They also say the bill “Prohibits pre-trial detention when an offender poses a general danger, allowing it only when officials can prove a danger to a specific person.”

Law enforcement groups are also concerned about the changes, saying the legislation would remove due process protections and expose them to new civil liability.

The Law Enforcement Coalition released a statement saying officers could be punished for unverified, anonymous complaints, and the bill eliminates the need for sworn affidavits. It also, if passed, would remove qualified immunity for police officers.

The bill is before the Illinois General Assembly, and will be considered for passage in the final days of their lame-duck session.

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