The Joliet City Council this week in a vote that broke down along racial lines passed a resolution calling for repeal of the state Safe-T Act.
The legislation, which most notably eliminates cash bail, has been a hot topic in the November state legislative races. Several candidates in the November election and the April city election also spoke on the resolution before the council vote at a meeting on Tuesday.
The Joliet resolution approved in a 5-3 vote has no impact on its own on the Safe-T Act. But it is part of a movement aimed at pulling back the legislation mandating changes in court and police practices in Illinois. The Oak Lawn Village Board on Tuesday also approved a resolution against the Safe-T Act, according to WBBM Newsradio 780-AM.
The La Salle County state’s attorney and sheriff on Wednesday announced a lawsuit aimed at stopping the implementation of Safe-T Act provisions slated to start Jan. 1. Will County State’s Attorney James Glasgow filed a lawsuit last month challenging the Safe-T Act.
Council member Larry Hug in a debate preceding the vote, said Joliet was sending a message to the state legislature.
“We are telling them point blank as a community, if we pass it, that we don’t agree with the brunt of this bill,” Hug said.
Councilman Cesar Guerro objected, noting, “We heard from several people today who are in favor of it.”
The council vote and public comments before the vote reflected division over the Safe-T Act, which advocates claim is designed to address court and police practices seen as unfair to minorities and people with low incomes. Opponents contend its provisions will handcuff police and let criminals loose from jail, reflecting a law-and-order argument in the debate.
Hug was among five white council members voting for the resolution along with Jan Quillman, Joe Clement, Pat Mudron and Sherri Reardon.
The two black council members – Bettye Gavin and Terry Morris – voted against it.
Guerrero, the one Hispanic council member, led an unsuccessful effort to have the resolution pulled off the agenda.
Guerrero said he did not necessarily oppose the Safe-T Act but did not see the point of the city resolution.
He said the resolution was “too vague for us to be able to come to a reasonable conclusion on this.”
Gurerrero questioned wording in the city resolution that says the Safe-T Act. is “unreasonably limiting the imposition of cash bail, unreasonably limiting police officer discretion to make arrests.”
“There’s a burden of proof for us to show that these limitations are unreasonable,” he said.
Public comments for and against the resolution also fell along racial lines with one exception.
Diane Harris, a Black woman with conservative views who is the Republican candidate for 43rd District State Senate seat that includes Joliet, spoke in favor of the resolution.
Harris commended the city for the resolution and pointed to its importance in the November election.
“As you already know, the Safe-T Act is the number-one issue in the upcoming election,” Harris told the council.”
Jim Lanham, a candidate in District 5 in the April city council election, began calling for Joliet to take action to send a message on the Safe-T Act in February 2021, when he was running for an at-large council seat in the election that year.
“We have a chance to be heard now,” Lanham said Tuesday as he urged the council to “send a message to Springfield.”
Mayor Bob O’Dekirk, who typically only votes to break a tie, made it clear that he was in favor of the resolution.
“I don’t think it goes far enough,” said O’Dekirk, pointing to 29 years experience as a police officer, prosecutor and criminal defense attorney.
“My experience is telling me that this bill (the Safe-T Act) is a disaster for our community,” said O’Dekirk, who is white. “This bill as it stands will make our community less safe.”