Criminal Justice

Massive Illinois Police Reform Bill Ends Cash Bail, Limits Deadly Force, Mandates Body Cameras, and Makes It Easier To Dump Crooked Cops

Unfortunately, qualified immunity remains intact.

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Illinois lawmakers have kicked off the new year with a massive policing reform bill. It will eliminate the use of cash bail, limit the use of deadly force, improve reporting of deaths in police custody, mandate the use of body cameras, and make it easier to decertify and fire officers who engage in misconduct, among other things.

The bill, H.B. 3653 was passed Wednesday by the state Senate and then early Thursday morning by the state's House. Democratic Gov. J.B. Pritzker has praised the bill, so it seems likely he'll sign it into law.

The bill is lengthy—more than 700 pages—and touches many areas of policing:

  • It creates a process for the state's attorney general to take a law enforcement officer to civil court if that officer has violated a person's civil rights and to seek financial damages, with a cap of $50,000. An earlier version of the bill would have stripped police officers of qualified immunity when they've been found to violate a person's rights, thus allowing individuals to sue officers in civil court, but that was removed from the final version of the bill.
  • It mandates body cameras for all police officers in the state, with compliance deadlines staggered across the next four years.
  • It establishes that after January 2023, monetary bail will be abolished within the state. Instead, people arrested for crimes will be evaluated with a goal of releasing them with only enough pretrial conditions to ensure they make it to subsequent court appearances and don't commit crimes while on release. Full detention will be ordered only "when it is determined that the defendant poses a specific, real and present threat to a person and has a high likelihood of willful flight." The court may use a risk assessment tool to evaluate the defendant, but the score cannot be the only reason why a defendant is denied pretrial release—and the defendant must be provided the information, so that he or she may challenge it. There are many exceptions to the orders for pretrial release, including defendants accused of stalking and domestic violence, many firearm-related crimes, human trafficking crimes, or any forcible felony that comes with a mandatory minimum prison sentence. Even in these cases, however, a court must determine that the defendant is too dangerous to be released.
  • It establishes a new class 3 felony of law enforcement misconduct, with a possible sentence of two to five years in jail. This will cover officers who misrepresent facts during an investigation, withhold knowledge of misrepresentation by other officers, or fail to comply with state laws or department policies on body-worn cameras.
  • It allows cities with populations greater than 100,000 to require that police live within city limits. Current law only permits this for cities with population greater than 1 million.
  • It allows other first responders besides police to direct people they encounter with substance abuse problems toward treatment programs, without requiring an arrest.
  • It allows funds for police and first responders to carry naloxone and similar supplies that can reverse opioid overdoses.
  • It prohibits law enforcement agencies from requesting or receiving excess military equipment, such as armored vehicles, large-caliber guns, or grenade launchers.
  • It prohibits retaliation against whistleblowers, a problem that has come up repeatedly when people try to expose misconduct in the Chicago Police Department.
  • It demands that all records connected to complaints against police officers and investigations of police officers be retained permanently.
  • It adds crisis intervention and de-escalation training to the curriculum for new police officers and to mandatory training every three years.
  • It requires the state police to participate in and provide data to the FBI's National Use of Force database.
  • It amends the police disciplinary process system so that officers under investigation are not provided the names of those filing the complaint, and so that it is no longer a requirement for people to provide their names in order to file a complaint about police misconduct. The Illinois Law Enforcement Training Standards Board is authorized to perform the preliminary review to see if there is evidence that supports the anonymous complaint.
  • It halts the practice of suspending driver's licenses for failure to pay traffic citations or abandoned vehicle fees.
  • It amends the definition of resisting or obstructing a police officer to require that, in order to arrest and individual for resisting arrest, there must be an underlying offense for which the person was subject to arrest. No more charging people only with resisting arrest.
  • It forbids the use of deadly force against people who are a danger only to themselves, and it forbids the use of deadly force against those suspected of committing only property offenses (except in cases of terrorism). The new rules require that deadly force be used only "when reasonably necessary in defense of human life." It also explains that "merely a fear of future harm" is not enough to reach this threshold. That's an important distinction, because many defenses of police shootings of unarmed suspects revolve around the officers claiming that they feared the suspect was armed.
  • It forbids chokeholds and neck restraints and forbids the use of force as punishment or retaliation. It forbids the use of non-lethal weapons in a manner that targets the head, pelvis, or back, and it forbids firing non-lethal weapons indiscriminately into crowds. It also forbids using irritants like tear gas against crowds unless police have both ordered the crowd to disperse and given it enough time to do so.
  • It establishes a duty to render aid to anybody police encounter who is injured (or anybody they injure) and an affirmative duty to intervene when they witness another police officer using unauthorized force. Retaliation against an officer who intervenes in this fashion is forbidden.
  • It calls for the citation and release rather than the arrest of anybody accused of traffic offenses, petty offenses, or low-level misdemeanors, unless they pose an obvious threat to others or themselves.
  • It establishes that all police officers must be certified to perform as law enforcement by the state's Illinois Law Enforcement Training Standards Board. It gives the board the authority to suspend an officer's certification immediately if the officer has been arrested or indicted on felony charges. A panel will hear the officer's case and can decide whether to maintain or reverse the officer's suspension of certification.
  • It orders the creation of a searchable database of law enforcement officers, available to the public, showing each officer's certification status and any sustained complaints of misconduct.

This is a lot of reform to pack into one bill, and it's going to take some time to see how it all plays out. The bail reforms appear to be following the same steps as New Jersey, which has mostly eliminated the use of cash bail, without making the mistake California did of giving judges too much leeway to deny pretrial release. Judges will still call the shots for the rules of pretrial release in Illinois, but as in New Jersey the law establishes a presumption of release and forces the court to document why somebody is too risky to be released.

Those distinctions matter because the purpose of reforming bail is to make sure that risk, not money, determines whether somebody is detained before trial. America has about half a million people stuck in pretrial detention, many of whom are not dangerous to the public but simply cannot afford the cost of bail. People who are unable to earn pretrial freedom typically end up accepting worse plea deals and get harsher sentences than somebody able to address the charges outside of jail.

But if judges aren't given the right tools to assess risks, the reforms can backfire and leave more people detained without any option of being released, since cash bail is no longer permitted. In Baltimore, poorly implemented reforms have led to an increase in people being released on their own recognizance, which is good, but also an increase in the number of people detained with no prospect of pretrial release, which is bad.

As for the risks when more people are released before trial: The evidence is preliminary, as many of these reforms are so new, but a reduction of bail demands in Chicago's Cook County found that increasing the number of people freed from detention did not contribute to crime increases.

It's unfortunate that reforms to qualified immunity were cut from the bill, but the legislation does call for a task force to explore possible changes in that area. Qualified immunity has been abused to protect police officers (and other government officials) from civil liability when they abuse citizens. Curtailing or eliminating qualified immunity would make cops think twice about beating people up for no good reason.

But even without that reform, police interests are screaming bloody murder, by which I mean they're saying you'll be bloody murdered if you restrain the police state. The Illinois Law Enforcement Coalition claims the bill "ties the hands of police officers while pursuing suspects and making arrests, and allows criminals to run free while out on bail. The legislation includes no way to pay for any of these law-abiding citizen-threatening measures, so taxpayers will have to pay extra for the privilege of being crime victims."

Well, let us know when it approaches the hundreds of millions of tax dollars being spent to pay settlements for police abuses just in Chicago alone.

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  1. That first bullet: so instead of ending qualified immunity and allowing people to sue for damages upon violations of their rights, the state AG gets to sue the cop and collect damages on behalf of the victim?

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    2. Aye, there’s the rub. All sorts of things are forbidden which should be forbidden, but enforcement depends on the same DAs and Attorney General who won’t enforce current laws.

      In practice, almost nothing will happen.

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    3. What a crappy last minute change.

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    4. If the government violates your rights, the government will investigate the government of wrongdoing. If the government finds reason to suspect the government has violated your rights, the government will take the government to a government court and have a government official preside over the case. If the jury finds the government guilty, the government will pay the government money in the amount that the jury determines, through government guidelines, which will then be dispersed to you in due time. Meanwhile, the expenses for the government court, government prosecution, and government defense will be paid for by the plebs, including the person who had their rights violated.

      Ah, I see the problem you have with this model. Yes. We should replace “jury” with “government”. An oversight. I’m sure it’ll be rectified soon.

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    1. It was 792. They will still be finding bodies. 800 is a given.

      32 felons out on bail committed homicide this year alone. Only 10% of the murderers are ever brought to justice.

      Chicago is a serial murderer’s paradise. Dexterville.

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  2. The only point I disagree with is the requirement to retain officer complaint records permanently. That sounds good but only when you think short-term. When you start thinking about institutions on century time-scales, that requirement becomes pretty stupid.

    The city of Chicago was founded somewhere around 1830. It probably had a police force of some kind fairly shortly after that. Do you really think they should still have every record associated with every complaint over the past almost-200 years? 200 years from now, do you really think the records collected today will be even vaguely relevant?

    Storage becomes another problem. Sure, DASD is cheap. A terabyte costs less than a megabyte did not long ago. But you have to store it in a usable form. What word processor were you using even just 30 years ago? Do you still have a copy of WordPerfect and Lotus-123? Or the drivers, operating system and accessories needed to load them? Can you even find a 5 1/4 floppy drive anymore? Files are not infinitely backwards compatible. Even most MS Office files can’t be opened more than about 12 years back. (Microsoft intentionally broke backwards compatability about then to solve a security bug.) So if I can’t store the document as-is, I have to periodically open and convert it, risking corruption at each point. Telling IT to store something “forever” is a blank check that no one should write.

    “Permanent” retention is a sign that the person making the rule has little imagination and less sense of large-scale time or the geometric growth of records.

    Okay. I’ll get off my soap box now. But just in case any IL legislators are reading this, change the rule. A long but defined retention period is perfectly reasonable. Keep it for a century if you like. It will be painful but it’s at least possible. Infinity is stupid.

    1. Reading your ignorant ramblings regarding electronic records management leaves me with the resounding impression that you are either retarded or a boomer

    2. They will keep records they have of you or me or anyone else for infinity and beyond. Why not require they do the same for their own?

    3. They should all be inscribed on papyrus with a quill pen.

      (if we can still say ‘quill’)

      1. clay tablets or they’ll be gone in a few hundred years.

    4. At first I thought this was a really dumb objection, but then I realized the “forever” is really only until the end of the world. And since that’s next Thursday, no big deal.

      1. I think we have 10 years left according to AOC.
        Maybe 11 now that we’re rejoining the Paris accords.

      2. Trumps planning on starting WW3 on Tuesday so yeah it’ll be over by Thursday.

  3. But wait- I thought Democrats couldn’t do anything good?

    1. Remind me, who was presiding over all the travesties that created a need for this bill to begin with?

      It’s progress, but the government doesn’t get credit for fixing problems they themselves created.

    2. Exactly. All good Republicans must oppose this bill on general principle without knowing anything else about it. It’s bad because Democrats.

      1. And you must avoid all note of repercussions of it because it may make you look like a lefty.

        Find your comments here weird when you seem to have no problem with cops killing a white woman who was unarmed.

    3. Got it in one, jackass.

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    5. Just because you have the obnoxiously childish arrogant belief that anything your opponents believe must be immoral doesn’t mean others believe that as well.

  4. Most are welcome reforms. Too bad the lawmakers in the state are so bad at creating a viable fiscal structure.

  5. I’m very curious about the bail reforms. We shall see. I’ve been less convinced of those, due to bail being a sort of midway point between people being free until their trial, and people being locked up until their trial. If judges start erring on the side of locking folks up without a bail option then I’m not certain we’ve seen a step forward in the proceedings.

    I’m hopeful though, and glad these experiments are taking place.

    1. Connecticut decided to go halfway and drop bail for all misdemeanors rather than abandon it entirely. I wonder if there is any discernible effect different from those states that removed all bail. It would be worrying if those who are suspected of minor felonies are automatically incarcerated until trial, whereas in Connecticut they at least have a chance to bail out pre-trial.

    2. https://www.mamamia.com.au/murders-by-people-on-bail/

      Yes. This practice is harmful world wide.

      Bail needs to be case by case, not no bail as a rule. Rapes and assaults seem to be the most consistent crimes that lead to crimes on bail, many targeting the witnesses and prior victims.

    3. It’s not good at all. It’s the same kind of clueless do-gooder enthusiasm that characterized criminology and penology in the 70s; only now, there’s a racial component riding atop all of it. Chicago P.D. has been a lawless, rampaging, accountable-to-few, incompetent beast for awhile—ask the lady bartender one of them kicked the living shit out of, while others tried to cover it up some years ago—or take a look at their abysmal practices of beating confessions out of people. Ryan threw the baby out with the bathwater, but it’s inarguable the practices of Chicago P.D. led to a lot of people on Illinois Death Row who shouldn’t have been there.

      Despite all of that, they still managed, somewhat, to keep a bit of a lid on crime in the commercial areas. If you ignore the increasingly frequent flash mobs on the Mag Mile. Now, they can’t and won’t. (And they don’t have Second City Cop anymore to expose how they can’t. It got deplatformed the other day.) There will be increased disorder and violence. Which is the point.

      It will be smile and wave policing, even more than it already is today. I can’t blame any of them that do. This seems to be what the people of that town want. I wonder what the former poster here, Nicole (the worst), thinks of this, if she still lives there.

      Bummer, I’ve liked visiting Chicago. Won’t do it again for some time.

      Hey Jackass! should get plenty of work, I guess.

    4. Even Californians were smart enough to vote against ending cash bail.

      1. Except in places like LA where the incoming DA has decided to end cash bail in many circumstances, completely ignoring the rule of law and the recent vote.

    5. Checkout the CWB Chicago. They report on crimes in the neighborhood. There are hundreds of pages of shootings, carjackings, and other violent street crimes. It will shock you on the number of times violent repeat felons are released and offend right away. The “catch and release” situation in Chicago is inexcusable.
      I can see bail reform for a working person that is contributing but releasing lifelong criminals sucks for victims. I lived in south Chicago. It sucked having to look over your shoulder 24/7.

  6. Several of the deadly force “reforms” could only have been suggested by someone ignorant of both the dynamics of deadly force encounters, and the existing law of use of force in self defense. As an example:

    “It also explains that “merely a fear of future harm” is not enough to reach this threshold. That’s an important distinction, because many defenses of police shootings of unarmed suspects revolve around the officers claiming that they feared the suspect was armed.”

    Only someone who has no concept of the required elements for a use of force to be justified under existing law would suggest that “mere fear of future harm” or mere “fear the suspect is armed” is somehow part of it.

    Spare me from the well-intentioned who can’t be bothered to even briefly learn about the law and how it works before demanding changes. Much less think that they understand interpersonal violence well enough to dictate from 10,000 feet how things actually work in reality.

  7. There is nothing much a state law could do about Qualified Immunity anyway, since that is an invention of the federal courts and applies only to lawsuits in federal courts.

    The most they could do would be to create a state court cause of action allowing people to sue the police in state courts thus bypassing QI, but that doesn’t eliminate QI.

    It creates a process for the state’s attorney general to take a law enforcement officer to civil court if that officer has violated a person’s civil rights and to seek financial damages, with a cap of $50,000.

    The question here is: Is this a state suit in state court or a federal suit in federal court.

    1. I’m not sure that’s right. Qualified immunity is a derivative of sovereign immunity. Sovereign immunity can be waived. The waiver applies to the jurisdiction making it, not the court they are sued in.

      So it seems to me that if a state law abolishes qualified immunity, that would apply to all the state officers, whether in state or federal court. But it would not apply to any federal officers, again regardless of the court.

      What am I missing in the reasoning?

  8. The part that caught my eye is the sentence about ending license suspensions for unpaid fines. This is a huge issue around the country and it often puts people in a poverty trap. People with money can drive like a jerk and pay off the system. (I hear Illinois judges are very liberal with “diversion” – pay us and we’ll make the ticket vanish.) But one minor ticket you can’t pay on time and you may never drive legally again.

  9. It will be like California where the DA doesn’t charge black people with commiting crimes. (see SF and them fining Walgreens and CVS for stopping theft). The good thing about Chicago is they have a lot of Mexican neighborhoods that if people go ther to mess it up they will not hesitate to shoot

  10. No information about how they will get this past the existing union contracts?

    1. Just like Uncle Sam needs you to sign your meaningless life away to fight in some oligarchs war for financial dominance, fascism needs cancel culture useful idiots to advocate censorship and silencing dissent in the population. Affix any fascists image pointing at you.

      Are you thinking what I’m thinking?

    2. I noticed that too. Most of this bill looks good but I’m not sure the state can abrogate existing local police contracts. Presumably when current contracts expire local jurisdictions would be bound by the new statute. So yeah the bill looks good but this is Illinois we’re talking about. There really is no limit to the political corruption here so I’m skeptical at this point.

  11. Sounds like a good time to be a crook in Illinois.

  12. Ending cash bail is not very reassuring when everything’s a crime.

    Wasn’t bail one of the hallmarks of British liberty? That the judge can’t lock you up forever awaiting trial? Who is in favor of ending it, exactly?

    1. The US Constitution guarantees a right to a speedy trial, so theoretically that cannot happen in the US with or without bail.

  13. No problem just continue the exodus from this totalitarian bastion of liberalism until there’s little tax dollars left to support the regime!

  14. Oh look, Black Lives Matter inspired real cop reform for us and libertarians are sitting on their mom’s dildos as usual.

    1. Oh look, Tony is projecting as usual, he came here to crap all over a thread using no facts and no logic, all the while he’s firmly planted of his mother’s dildo.

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