Rauner, a Republican, worked alongside the bill’s primary sponsor, Chicago Democratic State Senator Kwame Raoul, as well as with police unions throughout the state to turn the reform into law. Rauner praised the bipartisan effort, saying in a statement, “As a society, we must ensure the safety of both the public and law enforcement. SB 1304 establishes new and important guidelines and training for police departments and their officers, while protecting the public by prohibiting officers from using excessive force.
On Wednesday, Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner signed SB 1304; perhaps the most comprehensive police conduct reform law in the nation, in hopes of curbing a growing trend of reported cases of police brutality in the state and nationwide. Among the widespread changes, the state banned excessive use of force including the use of chokeholds, a practice that has been under heavy scrutiny since last year’s much-publicized death of Staten Island resident Eric Garner. Garner, who was obese and in poor health, died shortly after being subdued by several officers and placed in a chokehold, while being filmed by a bystander, after being suspected of a minor city violation. The law also creates guidance on the use of body cameras and the storage of camera footage, and although it does not mandate the use of body cameras, it does provide a path to make them more accessible for local departments. Additionally, the law updates “stop and frisk” procedures that have drawn condemnation in several major metropolises throughout the U.S. Officers will be required to provide a written “receipt” to citizens, detailing the reasons that that they stopped and/or searched them, but did not arrest them.
Beyond the reforms in regards to public interaction, the law also creates a variety of internal systemic changes. Along with the body-camera guidance, it also develops new racial-sensitivity training procedures for officers and staff. The state will also create a database of officers who have been discharged, or have resigned while under investigation to help prevent them from hiding that information if seeking employment in other police departments. Also, traffic stop data that is currently recorded by the state will be subject to a Department of Transportation review to help detect racial bias and ensure fairness. These provisions follow an agreement last week by the ACLU and the city of Chicago, in which police will record data for all stops and protective pat-downs, to be reviewed by a retired magistrate judge alongside the ACLU. Following the review, the judge will issue a public report regarding the data twice per year. As a potential downside for drivers, the state law will add an additional $5 fine for traffic stops, with the money going toward the purchase of body cameras by the state. Authorities are also looking to procure grant money to fund the additional cameras. While not mandating the body-cameras, proponents of the law cite that most departments desire to have the cameras, and claim that they want to weed out the bad officers in order to enhance the public trust. Several administrators have claimed that by regaining the public trust, the safety and job of the law-abiding officers will be made much easier.
Rauner, a Republican, worked alongside the bill’s primary sponsor, Chicago Democratic State Senator Kwame Raoul, as well as with police unions throughout the state to turn the reform into law. Rauner praised the bipartisan effort, saying in a statement, “As a society, we must ensure the safety of both the public and law enforcement. SB 1304 establishes new and important guidelines and training for police departments and their officers, while protecting the public by prohibiting officers from using excessive force. I thank the legislators who sponsored this bill. It will have a lasting and positive impact on the people of Illinois.” Raoul emphasized that the bill is not anti-police, and is ultimately designed to enhance the public trust in officers. Raoul said in an interview, “This is not just about police officer accountability, but restoring public confidence so police can do their jobs. You have a heightened level of cooperation when you have a heightened level of confidence.” Sean Smoot, an attorney for the Police Benevolent and Protective Association also touted the cooperation saying, “Police unions in this state stepped up to the plate and really led in a lot of the discussions involving the elements that were involved in this bill.”
The bill’s signing follows police reform legislation in Maryland, Connecticut, Colorado, and California; however the Illinois law is much more specific and in-depth than the previous reforms in the other states. The Illinois and Chicago laws come after a year of protests over incidents of apparent police abuse beginning with the controversial August 9th 2014 shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, and the grand-jury’s refusal to indict the former officer who shot Brown, Darren Wilson, who resigned citing safety concerns. Several high-profile incidents followed the Brown shooting, including Garner’s death, along with incidents in South Carolina, Cleveland, Oklahoma, and Maryland among others. As each high-profile incident has occurred, however, grand juries and internal department personnel have become less-inclined to defend the officer’s (mis)conduct.
Despite being the most comprehensive of the recent reforms among states, the Illinois law does have its share of disappointed opposition. One big criticism is that the database of former officers will not be accessible by the public, only instead by police and state-level administrators. Also, critics cite that New York City’s reporting procedures for its “stop and frisk” law requires the data involving the stops to be made public unlike the Illinois law. In addition to not mandating body-cameras by law, it is also unclear if or how accessible body-camera footage will be for the public under SB 1304. Additionally, while the law does collect and report data for stops and incidents involving the police, there is no clarity as to who the police are accountable to, and what kind of disciplinary changes will be coming as a result of these findings. Even with the flaws in the law, the depth and bipartisan nature of the agreement shows that the issue of police-abuse has resonated with the state, and much of the nation, a year out from the time the issue first entered national consciousness.
Business Insider/Reuters – Mary Wisniewski
Chicago Reporter – Asraa Mustufa
Chicago Sun-Times – Natasha Korecki