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Law enforcement hopeful with follow-up criminal justice reform bill

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FRANKLIN COUNTY (WSIL) — The Illinois Criminal Justice Reform Bill was signed into law earlier this year, but faced strong opposition from law enforcement agencies who argued the language created hurdles in effective policing practices.

The General Assembly passed a new bill during the Spring Session in hopes to address some of those concerns, with support from both law enforcement agencies and legislatures who say more work is still to come.

The Illinois Association of Chiefs of Police opposed the original Criminal Justice Reform Bill as it was written, but now say they are encouraged by the law’s sponsors in negotiating the much needed changes.

Major issues they say are addressed include policies regarding body cameras, the use of force, chokeholds and tasers, and allowing for the implementation of most new training requirements at the first of the year, instead of this July.

Zeigler Assistant Chief of Police Jeremy Childers says he was opposed to the original Criminal Justice Reform Bill, but welcomes the changes, especially when it comes to body cameras.

“It doesn’t address the funding for storage yet, but I’m going to be honest with you, I don’t want to sound like a pessimist, but I’m stunned that we got this,” says Childers. “I’m actually hopeful that there’s more good things to come out of it that will benefit everybody.”

The trailer bill, House Bill 3443, also removes the provision that makes it a felony to violate department policy on body cameras, which advocates say could have put a lot of officers in legal jeopardy.

The bill heads to Governor Pritzker’s desk and he is expected to sign it in the coming weeks, along with Senate Bill 2122, which bans law enforcement officers from using deception when interrogating minors.

The bill passed both chambers with near-unanimous support and once signed into law, sets Illinois as the first state to ban the practice.

According to the bill’s sponsor, children are more likely to say what they believe an officer wants to hear leading to false confessions. The bill makes any statements provided by a minor under the age of 18, inadmissible in court, if law-enforcement officers are found to have intentionally engaged in deception.

Assistant Chief Childers says the practice can be problematic, the change is good for the juvenile, but would “really stifle the investigative process” with adults.

The bill was supported by the State’s Chiefs of Police, the Illinois State’s Attorneys’ Association and Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx. It is currently legal in all 50 states for police to lie during interrogations with minors, similar legislation to ban the practice in other states is pending.

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