Republican Irvin’s anti-crime plan rests on taking ‘handcuffs off the police’ by repealing law Democrats insist he supported

The Aurora mayor vowed to repeal “anti-police pro-criminal policies” in a bill that Pritzker signed into law last year. Pritzker’s campaign says a letter that Irvin sent to one of the sponsors shows he actually supported the criminal justice reforms — but Irvin’s campaign says he was just “being polite to a state senator when asking for revisions” to the law.

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Republican gubernatorial candidate Richard Irvin speaks about the crime in Chicago and his answers to combat it during a news conference at his campaign headquarters.

Republican gubernatorial candidate Richard Irvin speaks about the crime in Chicago and his answers to combat it during a news conference at his campaign headquarters.

Anthony Vazquez/Sun-Times

Republican gubernatorial primary candidate Richard Irvin on Wednesday surrounded himself with law enforcement supporters at his downtown Chicago campaign office and vowed to be the tough-on-crime governor he advertises in his campaign ads.

But what Irvin actually wants to do, and can legally do, if he wins the GOP primary and defeats Democratic Gov. J.B. Pritzker is a little murkier — given Democratic control of the Legislature and a letter that the governor’s campaign says shows Irvin’s real views.

The Irvin campaign website touts the GOP candidate’s five-year tenure as Aurora mayor as proof he can keep crime at bay. It offers little beyond this tiny spoiler of how he wants to battle crime if elected: “As Governor, Richard will be tough on crime and criminals.”

But he offered a bit more Wednesday morning while standing among law enforcement supporters that included Chicago Fraternal Order of Police President John Catanzara; Jason Devino, vice president of Troopers Lodge 41, the union representing Illinois state troopers; and Kendall County Sheriff Dwight Baird.

Republican gubernatorial candidate Richard Irvin speaks at a news conference Wednesday.

Republican gubernatorial candidate Richard Irvin speaks at a news conference Wednesday.

Anthony Vazquez/Sun-Times

Irvin said he wants to repeal “anti-police pro-criminal policies.” He said that would include him keeping cash bail for violent criminals, banning the use of anonymous complaints against police officers in misconduct investigations, stopping criminals from being allowed to skip electronic monitoring for 48 hours, restoring criminal trespass victim protections and stopping criminals from being able to subpoena victims for five years.

Those are all provisions in the Safety, Accountability, Fairness and Equity-Today Act, commonly known as the SAFE-T Act, which was signed into law by Pritzker last year and which Republicans are trying to repeal.

Irvin and his campaign said that’s the extent of his crime platform. If elected, he’d then get stakeholders together to discuss more plans.

For his part, Pritzker in 2018 offered up a four-point plan as his criminal justice platform during his primary campaign, which included legalizing marijuana, reducing recidivism, reforming the juvenile justice system and treating gun violence like a public health epidemic. Pritzker, however, had the luxury of having a Democratic majority, and one that was extremely hungry to make changes after the tenure of former Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner.

When asked how he’d make criminal justice changes with a Democratic supermajority in the Legislature and whether he’d try to make any via executive orders, if elected, Irvin didn’t offer a solid explanation — instead touting his experience in working across the aisle and his push to have law enforcement at the table.

It was similar to the explanation of Irvin’s chief rival, state Sen. Darren Bailey, R-Xenia, who said that he’d use “communication” and the “ideals of hope” to repeal key abortion laws in the state.

Irvin staked his success on providing “the right leadership.”

Republican gubernatorial candidate Richard Irvin at his campaign’s headquarters in Chicago.

Republican gubernatorial candidate Richard Irvin at his campaign’s headquarters in Chicago.

Anthony Vazquez/Sun-Times

“We need to give our law enforcement the resources and backing to do their jobs and keep our communities safe,” Irvin said Wednesday.

“I know that under the right leadership, we can make those changes to hold violent criminals accountable for their heinous actions and clean up our streets so that Illinois will be a safer place to live, work and raise a family, who would take the handcuffs off the police and put them back on the criminal.”

Republicans and some state’s attorneys are concerned about the SAFE-T Act’s provision to end cash bail beginning in January 2023.The law requires body cameras at all departments by 2025, reforms use-of-force standards and expands detainee rights.

“We have a governor who wants to handcuff the police, rather than handcuffing those who commit crimes involving the very criminals who are terrorizing our neighborhoods,” Irvin said of Pritzker.

Supporters of the SAFE-T Act say it was intended to address long-standing public safety issues and police distrust in many communities. But Republicans have dubbed it a “defund the police” bill.

State Sen. Elgie Sims speaks during a news conference in November.

State Sen. Elgie Sims speaks during a news conference in November.

Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times file

Pritzker’s campaign in a statement told the Sun-Times that Irvin’s “desperation is showing.”

“He’s once again grasping at straws to deflect from the fact that he was an original supporter of the SAFE-T act and lauded the bill’s passage,” Pritzker campaign spokeswoman Natalie Edelstein said. “It is clear Irvin will do or say anything to get elected. Voters know they can’t trust Irvin and his campaign is in free fall because of it.”

Pritzker’s camp was referring to a letter Irvin sent to state Sen. Elgie Sims, one of the bill’s Democratic sponsors. The letter, obtained by the Chicago Sun-Times, commends Sims on his leadership on the bill’s passage and also lauds the measure’s goals.

Irvin’s campaign told the Chicago Tribune in March that the letter wasn’t “laudatory,” and was simply Irvin “being polite to a state senator when asking for revisions to a law” that affected police in his city.

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