Chesney Guest Column: Lame-Duck Session Delivers Unfunded Mandates on Law Enforcement

Ogle County Sheriff Brian VanVickle made history as one of the first committee witnesses to testify before the General Assembly via video stream during the lame-duck session in opposition to House Bill 3653, a purported police reform omnibus bill which instead threatens public safety in all of our communities. VanVickle opposed the unfunded mandates included in the bill as well as the process which forced this legislation through the lame-duck session and insufficiently solicited public input.

The Freeport City Council, this past week, backed the Freeport Police Department with a resolution urging Governor Pritzker veto this flawed bill- House Bill 3653. Mayor Jodi Miller and the Council deserve our gratitude for standing up against the detrimental impact these changes will have on our communities and our region.

As this bill continued to change before passing just one hour before the end of lame-duck session, it is important to review what the bill does and what it does not do.

The bill DOES:

End cash bail in Illinois, for most defendants. New York tried this in early 2020. Soon after, the New York Police Department released figures showing a spike in crime and pointed the finger at the cash bail reform rules. Due to public backlash, the New York legislature rolled back many of the changes in April 2020.

Allows for anonymous complaints against law enforcement officers without requiring repercussions for false or intentionally untrue statements. Trust without verification is counter to our values.

Include unfunded, expensive mandates on local governments and local law enforcement agencies. While most in law enforcement support body cameras and increased training, local governments must have a way to pay for these new requirements. The only options for many agencies will be increased property taxes or reduced numbers of officers protecting our communities.

The bill DOES NOT:

Include a collaborative process with stakeholders. Law enforcement concerns were communicated to bill sponsors and were not adequately addressed in a collaborative process. Every State’s Attorney, except for Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx, opposed this bill. To pass this in the lame-duck session was a disservice to taxpayers’ expectant of honest government services.

Make us safer. Examples like New York show us these changes will lead to an increase in crime, not a reduction. Pair the desperation of massive unemployment with easy on crime policies and you have a recipe for communities which are less safe and more lenient on those who victimize others.

I join our local officials in urging Governor Pritzker veto this flawed bill. While the Governor has indicated support for soft-on-crime policies, it is important we show law enforcement that we support those who protect and serve. We speak out against elected officials who purport to serve while making our communities more dangerous.