Will County sheriff candidates weigh in on SAFE-T Act

Now it's October again and a deputy running for sheriff, Jim Reilly, is pointing at murder cases and promising to do a better job on them than the guy he's trying to beat, incumbent Mike Kelley.

The Republican challenger to incumbent Will County Sheriff Mike Kelley has criticized him for refusing to speak out against the SAFE-T Act, but Kelley said he’s spoken about his concerns to state officials about the act long before it became law and has been working to fix it.

When Will County State’s Attorney James Glasgow filed a lawsuit on Sept. 16, challenging the SAFE-T Act, Will County Sheriff Deputy Jim Reilly, the Republican opponent to Kelley, a Democrat, commended the lawsuit from Glasgow, who’s also a Democrat.

Prosecutors in McHenry, Kankakee and Grundy counties filed similar lawsuits against the SAFE-T Act, a criminal justice reform law that has come under fire in recent months over a provision eliminating cash bail for criminal defendants on Jan. 1, 2023.

In a statement, Reilly called the SAFE-T Act “reckless legislation that will empower criminals and undermine the efforts of law enforcement who put themselves at risk to keep our communities safe.”

Reilly said it was refreshing to see Glasgow put “partisan politics aside and do what’s best for the people of Will County and the State of Illinois.”

Republican Sheriff Candidate Jim Reilly (left) and Will Coutny Sheriff Mike Kelly share a table Thursday, Sept. 27, 2018, during candidate forum at Mt. Olive Missionary Baptist Church in Joliet, Ill.

“Unfortunately, our current sheriff, Michael Kelley, has adopted liberal policies and refuses to speak out against the SAFE-T Act, which continues to jeopardize the safety of the men and women who work for him,” Reilly said.

Kelley said well before Gov. J.B. Pritzker signed the SAFE-T Act into law on Feb. 22, 2021, he contacted state lawmakers about his concerns, worked with the Illinois Sheriffs’ Association to address those concerns and sent a letter to Pritzker asking him to veto the bill.

Since the SAFE-T Act became law, Kelley said he’s been working with state lawmakers to get trailer bills passed to amend the law.

One trailer bill cited by Kelley was House Bill 3443, which became effective in June 2021.

One of the many revisions the bill made to the original SAFE-T Act concerned police officers’ use of body cameras. The revised language of the bill said an officer who fails to comply with state law on the use of body cameras only commits misconduct when that failure was done so knowingly and intentionally.

Kelley said Reilly thinks because he doesn’t go on Facebook to tell the public about how he is against the SAFE-T Act, that means he’s not doing anything about it.

“I was taught at a young age, you got a problem with something, do something about it,” Kelley said. “Don’t just whine and cry about it. That’s not me. I’m doing everything in my power as Will County Sheriff to get this fixed.”

Kelley said the entire SAFE-T Act is not reckless and he agreed with the aspects that require police body cameras, create more training for officers and allow the de-certification of officers who commit misconduct.

Reilly said the few pages of what is good in the SAFE-T Act are far outweighed by the damages it causes to communities and to law enforcement.

“The entire bill needs to be thrown away and we need to start over,” Reilly said.

Glasgow did not respond to questions about which sheriff candidate he supports, or which candidate for governor.

Will County States Attorney James Glasgow speaks to the Herald-News on Friday, Feb. 7, 2020, in Joliet, Ill.

Dan Proft, a conservative political operative and talk show host who supports state Sen. Darren Bailey’s Republican bid for governor, has used Glasgow’s criticisms of the SAFE-T Act in a political mailing disguised as a newspaper called Will County Gazette.

Glasgow’s spokeswoman Carole Cheney provided a statement that said his opposition to the SAFE-T Act is not about politics or party affiliation but public safety.

“I support sensible criminal justice reforms such as those enacted in New Jersey — which proponents of the Illinois legislation use as a talking point but did not follow when drafting this law,” Glasgow’s statement said.