On Jan. 13th, 2021, House Bill 3652 passed. A bill that focuses on criminal justice and police reform. Some changes being; a requirement that all officers are to wear body cameras by 2025, a ban on all police chokeholds, the elimination of monetary bail, the end of license suspension for failure to pay, new guidelines for officer decertification and many other changes. This bill is heavily focused on police transparency and accountability, as well as detainee, prisoners and citizens’ rights. The passing of this bill led to several mixed responses from Illinoisians, officers and individuals across the nation. A lot of outrage stemmed from the amount of time it took to read over the bill, before passing it.
According to Republican Rep. Tom Weber in his NBC Chicago interview, he claimed the bill is “dangerous.” He also commented, “I would say I am shocked, but this has become the norm in Springfield – wait until the last moment and then drop a bill that is more than 700 pages on the floor, preventing even a basic level of public review,” Weber said in a statement. “Make no mistake, this legislation is dangerous and makes every community less safe. Public safety budgets will be cut, unfunded mandates will be poured on local communities and police, and officers could be subjected to punishment and held personally liable for unsubstantiated or unverifiable complaints. However, perhaps the worst part, many violent felons will be able to walk free before trial.”
These words ring true to a lot of students at WIU. Western Illinois University is one of the most well-known universities for its Law Enforcement and Justice Administration program and graduation is just around the corner. With 25 percent of the student population pursuing a degree in LEJA, this bill created a lot of discussion amongst peers on where they stand with the bill being passed and how this bill is going to affect the soon-to-be graduates wanting to pursue a career in policing. After participating in conversations with multiple law enforcement students, the majority of them are upset and a lot of them are now looking into jobs in Wisconsin or Iowa, where they feel as though the public is more accepting and welcoming to officers. Others are debating if a career in law enforcement is worth it anymore and are concerned that the social stigma will only worsen. Then, there’s the minority who have some understanding of why this bill has been passed and are still going to pursue their career in Illinois and take it day by day.
“At first it was kind of concerning, the number of repercussions and restrictions that they placed on police officers. I don’t believe that the bill was fully deliberated on because the bill was only passed within an hour. There is no way to have read a 600+ page paper in that amount of time. Although I don’t know how much it is going to affect an officer in their day-to-day lives, it still detrimentally affects law enforcement, because this bill takes away the proactive approach that law enforcement officers use within their communities and over time I’m sure clauses will get added to the amendment to change it, but until then, you will find law enforcement officers taking a very cautious approach in terms of dealing with incidents and people they encounter. I do believe that productivity in police departments will go down, in fear of getting sued. No officer wants to be sued,” said senior student Nimit Zaveri.
Whether or not students, officers or the community likes or dislikes HB3653, it is now being put into effect. Illinois officers will have to adapt to the changes being put into place, and only time will tell on how this bill will affect departments and society. Over time, there will be changes and clauses added or taken away, however, officers will continue to work and serve their civic duty.