Chesney Guest Column: Undoing damage from Safe-T Act begins with repeal as Democrats feel heat at front doors

Last January, Illinois Democrats passed the Safe-T Act during the final hours of the lame-duck session of the last General Assembly, in one of the final acts of Speaker Michael Madigan.

Since that time, a crime wave was set in motion throughout Illinois which threatens public safety as well as led the countless retirements of more experienced law enforcement officers and exodus from Illinois of many officers toward the beginning of their career. Over 40 of the 102 Illinois County Sheriffs have announced their retirements since last January, many citing the Safe-T Act’s passage among their motivations.

I support efforts, like House Bill 4497 and House Bill 4499, to repeal damaging elements of the Safe-T Act to begin to undo the damage caused by its partisan passage and restore public safety in Illinois. The Safe-T Act was passed as House Bill 3653. Democrat lawmakers, in passing the legislation, prioritized criminals over families and law enforcement and created an environment in Illinois which is more dangerous for both law enforcement and the general public.

Across our state, in Chicago, the suburbs, and even here in Northwest Illinois, we continue to see an unchecked rise in violent crime, and depleted law enforcement ranks who continue to be pushed aside by incumbent Democrats.  Carjackings, shootings and other senseless acts of violence have Illinois families living in constant fear of criminals.

All the while, law-abiding citizens are denied access to FOID cards through endless bureaucratic delays and our law enforcement officers do not receive the support they need from our government. You can’t blame those of us who have characterized this bill as a “punish the police” bill rather than by the moniker of “Safe-T Act”.

The City of Chicago’s murder rate in the highest in 25 years at 836 murders last year. The City of Freeport also hit high marks on murders, tragically. A 40% increase was reported in carjackings in Chicago in 2021, according to the Cook County Sheriff’s office, with similar trends seen throughout the state.

Legislation like House Bill 4497 and House Bill 4499 were filed this Spring to fully repeal the woke criminal justice reform measures passed by Illinois Democrats after midnight on January 13, 2021. Companion legislation, House Bill 4496, creates a public safety task force which requires strong involvement of the law enforcement community in making recommendations to allow for reasonable reforms which would not jeopardize public safety, as the Democrats have done.

A curious thing has happened since the one-year anniversary of the Safe-T Act. Democrats are feeling the heat from their own voters at doorsteps every day as their constituents ring their bells back about crime in their neighborhoods. When they point directly at their cars, which had their catalytic converter stolen the week before, or point to a neighborhood park where a child was shot recently, it contorts the pride Democrats have felt about their woke reforms. They are hearing these complaints often enough at doorsteps that even progressive lawmakers are scrambling to demonstrate their support of police.

Even with a full course reversal, it will be difficult for Democrats to undo to the damage they have done to law enforcement in Illinois. In catering to the more radical elements of their base, they have put a hurting on the working families they swore to serve and protect. It will take years for Illinois law enforcement recruitment problem to improve, even if Democrats reversed course. May God have mercy on their souls for the heinous acts which have befallen Illinois families all for the Democrats’ flawed virtue signaling.

State Representative Andrew Chesney advocates on behalf of the 89th District in Illinois. As a legislator, his policy priorities include cutting taxes, creating jobs, and government accountability and transparency. Learn more at RepChesney.com.