House Republicans, law enforcement urge Pritzker to veto ‘confusing, inoperable’ criminal justice reform bill

In a Zoom news conference Wednesday morning, House Republican Leader Jim Durkin said the state must “thoroughly and carefully address police reform and criminal justice reform, it is the right thing to do.”

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House Republican Leader Jim Durkin, left, in 2018; Gov. J.B. Pritzker, right, last year.

House Republican Leader Jim Durkin, left, in 2018; Gov. J.B. Pritzker, right, in July.

Rich Hein, Pat Nabong/Sun-Times files

House Republicans on Wednesday urged Gov. J.B. Pritzker to veto a sweeping criminal justice bill passed by the Legislature earlier this month that they say will create “major public safety issues.”

House Republican Leader Jim Durkin said the state must “thoroughly and carefully address police reform and criminal justice reform. It is the right thing to do.”

“I believe no person should have to live in fear of their government, and we must address those issues,” the Western Springs Republican said in a Zoom news conference Wednesday. “House Bill 3653 doesn’t do it. In short, it is a confusing, inoperable and contradictory attempt to reform policing and the criminal justice system.

“The [legislation], in its whole, is a document that lacks clarity and will be unworkable for police, the judiciary, defense attorneys and prosecutors.”

The main concerns for the House Republican leader, who was joined by state Rep. Patrick Windhorst, R-Metropolis, and Joe Moon, president of Illinois Troopers Lodge 41, are the end of cash bail and mandating that police officers wear body cameras.

Ending cash bail will have “major public safety issues,” Windhorst said.

“There are numerous examples from across the country, from New York to California, as to why ending cash bail is a bad idea,” Windhorst said. “Under this bill, we have a significant concern that criminals who commit acts of violence and other dangerous crimes, such as robbery, burglary and arson, will be right back out on the streets within days, able to victimize more people.”

State Rep. Patrick Windhorst, R-Metropolis.

State Rep. Patrick Windhorst, R-Metropolis.

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Moon said the bill was not fully vetted, and law enforcement wasn’t involved in the crafting of the legislation. Law enforcement agencies were “made aware of some concepts” but “had no physical input” and didn’t review any of the language.

A spokeswoman for Pritzker did not immediately respond to request for comment on whether or not the governor will sign the bill.

The sponsors of the bill have said complaints from law enforcement groups and Republicans are little more than “fear mongering.”

On Wednesday, state Rep. Justin Slaughter — who helped steer the package through the House — said he’s awaiting a call and discussion with Pritzker in regards to whether he’ll sign the bill, but the South Side Democrat feels confident the governor will do so despite pressure to veto it.

Since the bill passed during the lame duck session earlier this month before new members were sworn in, it would not be able to go through the amendatory veto process, meaning the bill would die if the governor didn’t sign off on it.

State Rep. Justin Q. Slaughter, D-Chicago

State Rep. Justin Q. Slaughter, D-Chicago

Rich Hein/Sun-Times file

Slaughter also said that there’s time to collaborate with law enforcement on the implementation of the various pieces of the bill. The end of cash bail won’t go into effect until January of 2023, and municipalities will be on a rolling compliance schedule to use of body cameras with complete compliance by 2025.

“In my opinion this is just the start of where we need to be with criminal justice reform,” Slaughter said. “We believe the provisions in the bill are sensible changes that need to be made.”

The back and forth over the criminal justice reforms in the bill, which was a piece of the Illinois Legislative Black Caucus’ agenda, predates its passage during the General Assembly’s lame duck session about two weeks ago.

A coalition of the state’s law enforcement leadership said in a statement earlier this month the “so-called ‘reforms’” in the bill “would destroy law enforcement’s ability to keep communities safe.”

They urged lawmakers to “avoid making a sudden, rash decision and instead work carefully with all stakeholders to truly examine what needs to be done regarding law enforcement in Illinois.”

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