Letter: Citizens of Illinois sacrificed – why?

To the Editor:

Citizens beware!

Legislation introduced in the middle of the night, under cover of darkness, wrapped in a 764-page so-called reform bill, is what the Legislative Black Caucus introduced as HB 3653, to radically change policing and the criminal justice system in Illinois.

Included in these discussions were items concerning police use of force, body camera use, officer complaints, collective bargaining and many other items concerning no cash bail and ending qualified immunity for police. It even includes allowing an anonymous complaint without any corroborating information to subject an officer to termination. This is completely void of any sense of police work, due process or fairness!

Police perform their duties knowing that they are potentially at risk of life in many calls for service they respond to. They must make decisions in many cases instantaneously and thus have always been provided a limited qualified immunity in Illinois in crisis situations. Without this limited protection why would an officer ever place his or her life in jeopardy?

The Illinois Law Enforcement community has forever been fully supportive in working with legislators to adopt police reforms to include police accountability, training, and other topics for review, assessment or change.

Improving community relations and citizen safety – coupled with alternative means in the administration of criminal justice reforms – has always been the cornerstone of good policing.

I have only focused on a few parts of the terrible content of the HB3653 now known as PA 101-0652, passed in a rush without proper negotiation with the law enforcement community. It will not produce an improved outcome for the public or policing in Illinois. In the end the public loses when police fear getting fired for using force in life-threatening situations – hesitation can cost lives. This is a big win for criminals, not for the people of Illinois. It is NOT reform!

Shame on the sponsors of this legislation that chose to rush it through simply because they could. And shame on Governor Pritzker who signed it into law.

I ask the public: Tell your legislators and the governor’s office you oppose rushed, dark-of-night passage of legislation like this. The crafters of this legislation do not appear to have engaged in a good faith effort to utilize the knowledge, and real world experience, of the many law enforcement professionals and labor organizations. Their experiences are not from the movies you may have watched, they are real lived experience, in the many split second decisions of life and death confronting police – listen and learn! And tell them that a trailer bill is needed – immediately – to correct the new law’s many very-dangerous mistakes.

Larry L. Langston, Serena, retired former Chief of Police, Aurora