HB163

Winnebago County Sheriff Gary Caruana, at podium, speaks during a news conference on Tuesday in opposition to proposed police reforms introduced during the lame duck session of the Illinois State Legislature.

ROCKFORD — Stateline Area law enforcement officials have come out strongly opposed to proposed legislation aimed at sweeping police reforms in Illinois.

Illinois House Bill 163, introduced in the lame duck session, would end cash bond; create a statewide use-of-force policy; ends qualified immunity for officers; create new procedures for reporting in-custody deaths; mandate crisis intervention trainings and reduce collective bargaining rights. The bill also would require expanded use of force training; maintenance of police misconduct records and use of independent special prosecutors in the event of officer-involved deaths.

The bill could be voted on today, with the legislation needing 60 votes to pass out of the Illinois House.

Supporters of the bill say legislation of this type is long overdue, while opponents say the bill would harm communities.

Winnebago County Sheriff Gary Caruana took issue with the mechanism in the legislation that would end the cash bond system, saying ultimately the bill could put the public in harm’s way.

“It handcuffs us and binds our hands from going out and doing our jobs,” Caruana said during a news conference on Tuesday with area law enforcement leaders. “We are very concerned about this. This is an attack on victims and the community, not law enforcement.”

Caruana and others said the legislation would force unfunded mandates upon smaller departments, ultimately straining resources for smaller agencies.

Rockton Police Chief Stephen Dickson said he strongly opposed the bill.

“It is quite possibly the worst proposed legislation I’ve seen in 35 years,” Dickson said.

Roscoe Police Chief Jamie Evans said the legislation “vilifies the police.”

South Beloit Police Chief Adam Truman said the bill would negatively impact all communities in Illinois.

“The bill makes it more difficult for the police to investigate crimes in an efficient manner. The bill would create financial hardships to small municipalities with the mandates such as body-worn cameras, without the proper funding,” Truman said. “...the bottom line is that this bill is filled with poor language and has nothing to do with ‘police reform.’ Citizens in every Illinois community should be very concerned.”

State Rep. Maurice West, D-Rockford, who helped draft a portion of the legislation, said the unfunded mandates would have a funding source through legal cannabis sales revenue.

On Twitter, West called for “facts over fear” surrounding the legislation, pointing out that the removal of the cash bail system would allow judges to hold suspects in custody by way of a danger assessment rather than allowing some to be bailed out by “angel investors,” citing the release of Kyle Rittenhouse, who faces murder charges stemming from the deadly racial justice protests in Kenosha last summer. Rittenhouse was bailed out through a crowdfunding campaign.

Winnebago County State’s Attorney J Hanely said he was “concerned” how the bill was being quickly advanced through the Legislature.

“…provisions of this bill will lead to increases in violent crime, undermine public safety, and deny justice to crime victims. If passed, HB 163 will thwart our Office’s ability to carry out its mission: To seek justice, Hanely said.

Winnebago County Board Chairman Joe Chiarelli urged lawmakers “hit the pause button” on the bill.

“Let us all come together and come up with good policy,” Chiarelli said. “We need to slow this down.”

If passed, the legislation would take effect on Jan. 1, 2022.