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State officials laud signing of ‘landmark’ public safety bill


From Illinois Business Journal news services

SPRINGFIELD – A measure creating standards for use of police body cameras and other procedures, co-sponsored among others by state Sen. Bill Haine, D-Alton, was signed today by Gov.Bruce Rauner.

Rauner lauded the new law, which takes effect Jan. 1. With it, Illinois is among the first states in the country to pass comprehensive legislation that includes procedures for police departments that utilize body cameras; establishes reporting requirements for officers who make stops or arrests; crisis intervention and racial sensitivity training; and prohibits excessive force like choke holds.

“Today we are taking steps to strengthen the relationship between our law enforcement officers and the public they protect with the Police and Community Improvement Act,” Rauner said. “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.”

State Sen. Kwame Raoul, D-Chicago, state Rep. Elgie Sims, D-Chicago, and Rep. John Anthony, R-Morris, jointly announced the signing today. The law makes Illinois one of the first states to codify recommendations issued this year by President Obama’s Task Force on 21st Century Policing.

“In a political climate not known for its abundance of bipartisan cooperation, we nevertheless built strong support on both sides of the aisle and from the governor for a package of reforms that demonstrate a serious commitment to restoring trust between law enforcement and communities,” said Raoul, who has worked since last year on body camera standards and other reforms. “This pioneering law is a response to recent officer-involved deaths but also a public acknowledgement that communities are only truly safe for all their residents when police and the people they serve can trust one another. We know there is much progress to be made on that front, and that was the impetus for the changes enacted today.”

“Police encounters gone tragically wrong in Ferguson, New York City, Baltimore and elsewhere forced the nation to confront uncomfortable realities about race and policing in America, and here in Illinois, lawmakers on both sides of the aisle felt compelled to take action to address the disparities and restore trust,” Sims said. “Independent investigations, better training and better record-keeping will foster an atmosphere of seriousness about tackling racial disparities in law enforcement and zero tolerance of police misconduct.”

“It was a privilege to work with law enforcement as well as community groups to negotiate this trailblazing piece of legislation,” Anthony said. “Most law enforcement officers have a genuine desire to serve and protect all residents of their communities fairly, and they welcome tools, such as body cameras and the officer misconduct database, that can help them do their jobs more effectively.”

Senate Bill 1304 implements numerous recommendations of the federal task force by:

• Requiring independent investigations of all officer-involved deaths
• Improving mandatory officer training in areas such as the proper use of force, cultural competency, recognizing implicit bias, interacting with persons with disabilities and assisting victims of sexual assault
• Creating a statewide database of officers who have been dismissed due to misconduct or resigned during misconduct investigations
• Improving data collection and reporting of officer-involved and arrest-related deaths and other serious incidents
• Establishing a Commission on Police Professionalism to make further recommendations on the training and licensing of law enforcement officers

The legislation also prohibits the use of choke holds by police and expands the Traffic Stop Statistical Study, which provides insights into racial disparities in vehicular stops and searches, to include pedestrians whom officers “stop and frisk” or temporarily detain for questioning. It also codifies rules concerning the appointment of special prosecutors.

The new law does not require law enforcement agencies to deploy officer-worn body cameras, but if they choose to do so, they must adhere to the following standards:

• The cameras must be turned on at all times when an officer is responding to a call for service or engaged in law enforcement activities.
• The cameras can be turned off at the request of a crime victim or witness, or when an officer is talking with a confidential informant.
• Recordings are exempt from FOIA with some exceptions:
• Recordings can be “flagged” if they have evidentiary value in relation to a use of force incident, the discharge of a weapon or a death.
• “Flagged” recordings may be disclosed in accordance with the Freedom of Information Act; however, in certain sensitive situations, such as a recording of a sexual assault, victim consent is required prior to disclosure.
• Recordings must be retained for 90 days or, if “flagged,” for two years or until final disposition of the case in which the recording is being used as evidence.

SB 1304 also creates a competitive grant program for departments to obtain money toward purchasing the cameras. The grants, as well as the legislation’s additional training requirements, will be funded by a $5 increase in fines for traffic violations.

Earlier this year, when the Senate advanced the measure, Haine said the law would be of benefit to both police and the public.

“This legislation requiring the use of police-worn body cameras helps keep law enforcement accountable and provides for greater safety for both officers and citizens,” said Haine. “It would create a better review process of what happens out in the field and allow for greater protections for our courageous police officers.”

He expanded on comments on Wednesday. “I have always been supportive of law enforcement since I came into the Senate as a former state’s attorney of Madison County, and I am very familiar with false accusations against police officers as well as those that have a factual basis,” said Haine.

The measure also requires the Illinois Law Enforcement Training Standards Board to develop basic guidelines for the use of officer-worn body cameras by law enforcement. Additionally, it would require law enforcement agencies using body cameras to provide an annual report to the Board each year.


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