BY LEN WELLS

Local law enforcement officials are speaking out forcefully against pending legislation that would enact massive police reform in Illinois.

Being debated during the current lame duck session, House Bill 163 contains many social justice police reforms which includes the elimination of cash bail. One of the primary aims of the “Pretrial Fairness Act” is to set free certain criminal offenders without having to wait in jail for their court date because they cannot afford bond. Many advocating for the bill say they view cash bail as “institutional racism” within the criminal justice system. If enacted, a judge would issue pre-trial release conditions for offenders instead of setting a cash bail. The Pretrial Fairness Act would still allow a judge to detain a person, but for only specific offenses including domestic battery, murder or gun offenses.

Local law enforcement officials reacted swiftly, condemning the proposed legislation in the following statement signed by the White County State’s Attorney, Sheriff and Carmi Police Chief.

“As is typical Springfield, we were surprisingly dropped with an amendment to HB163, a horrific 611 page “criminal justice reform” bill in the lame duck session, with little time to read through or prepare to address our legislators about the horrendous fallout on public safety by their legislative efforts to placate the activists and divisive mobs that promote false narratives in a narrow window before the new legislators are sworn-in. Let’s be clear about one thing: this bill is an attack on law enforcement, law and order, the rights of victims, public safety and the rule of law itself. 

First, this bill is unbelievable in the nonsensical attacks on law enforcement officers and how they do their jobs. It would put them in harms way and subject them to never before seen liability for merely carrying out their duties, anytime they put on their uniform. The focus of those pushing this type of legislation is part of a myopic strategy of staying in power by pitting citizens against law enforcement officers.

Second, the bill would result in the end of any form of cash bail and would essentially result in people charged with probable cause of committing serious violent and property crimes being let back out on the street upon arrest, if they’re even subject to arrest at all. To hold someone in custody, the legislation would require the court to make certain findings that could be between difficult and impossible to find. To think that there would be a presumption of pretrial release for someone who is accused of taking another person’s life, sexually violating another person or other serious crime is preposterous and unacceptable. 

Third, the bill is an attempt to interfere with legitimate investigative abilities of police officers that goes far beyond what anyone who cares about public safety and law and order would consider rational, reasonable and allowable under any circumstance.

The various interests of the law enforcement community have attempted to negotiate possible changes to the criminal justice system with members of the legislature; however, this bill makes it appear as though any concerns that were conveyed by law enforcement were ignored while the request of activists and individuals sitting in think tank cubicles were foolishly embraced. 2020 was an insane year, and 2021 has already been off to an insane start. I honestly thought that the actions that we saw in 2020 by members of Antifa and BLM that included looting and rioting of public businesses, the burning of parts of cities, the death and violence committed against innocent civilians, the occupation of city blocks and government buildings, and the barrage of assaults on other government buildings including a federal courthouse, would be enough for those pushing this type of legislation to come to their senses; it obviously did not. As this was filed before the rioters of the Capitol this week, we can only hope that those pushing this destructive legislation would to understand that bad conduct, regardless of the political or ideological or partisan beliefs of those responsible for said conduct, should be denounced, and we should not be making it easier for people to commit these destructive acts. If this type of legislation is passed, then do not be surprised if we see a sharper increase in crime than was seen since the last rounds of “reform.”

Respectfully, 

Denton Aud

White County State’s Attorney

Doug Maier

White County Sheriff

Jason Carter

Carmi Police Chief