Recently, I hosted a Public Safety Roundtable Event with local police officers, County Sheriffs, Police Chiefs, and their staff. The focus of the meeting was to hear firsthand from local police about their concerns over the SAFE-T Act and what legislators can do to help make our communities safer. Engaging in open dialog with those who took an oath to protect us is the best feedback legislators can have.
During our discussion about recent laws that have been passed by the supermajority, everyone around the table that spoke about the SAFE-T Act shared the same concern: public safety. Although there were a couple of laws they thought to be beneficial, such as new training policies and accountability, the negative impact of the SAFE-T Act outweighed the good that came from the law.
According to police chiefs, the training board is a major challenge for their departments. They are overwhelmed and struggle to provide quality training and education to officers. This should be a priority for the State of Illinois as we expect our local police officers to carry high standards and training as they make their way to the streets to protect the community. The effect of the SAFE-T Act is going to impact communities across Illinois and the local police have very strong concerns.
They anticipate an uptick in crime due to criminals being released from jail without posting cash bail. The question is how many are actually going to show up to their court date, and if they don’t, who is going to search for them? They also said that the current out-of-county warrant policies need to be revised so local counties can work better together at apprehending suspects.
To make their jobs even harder, they have noticed corporations are not pressing charges on criminals because they are afraid of lawsuits and claims of discrimination.
Lastly, everyone in the room showed a great deal of concern over officers losing morale. The officers on the streets risk their lives daily to protect us and they have basically been told to stand down. They no longer can make arrest for certain crimes, but rather write citations.
Police use of force is now limited, regardless of the dangerous situation they are subjected to. Furthermore, if they do make an arrest they are noticing prosecutors, in many cases, are not pressing charges against the criminals. This information is extremely disappointing to hear and our law enforcement needs our support as they the heart of public safety.
Before the SAFE-T Act was passed, local police, county sheriffs and municipal police chiefs tried to voice their concerns to the supermajority legislators but were quickly shut out. The failure to have discussions with police departments before the passage of the “SAFE-T Act” resulted in bad policy decisions that will be felt by every community in Illinois.
I will continue to work closely with local law enforcement and my colleagues to bring back legislation that supports putting criminals behind bars, keeping our communities safe, and to ensure our police officers have the authority to do their job.