The task force is hearing from law enforcement about the rising crime rate.
SPRINGFIELD, MASS. – – To battle the state’s escalating violent crime rate, police chiefs and sheriffs told a panel of state lawmakers on Friday that they need more resources and support from the public and the General Assembly. Some people are unhappy with the existing state of affairs, especially in light of recent criminal justice reforms.
“There are members of the policing community who believe that the community should have no say in what we do in our profession,” Hazel Crest Police Chief Mitchell Davis explained. “On the other hand, some members of the community do not want anything to do with police officers of any kind.” Everyone has the right to feel whatever they want. But until we can work together despite our differences, we will never be able to fully realize our potential in addressing public safety and violence concerns in all communities.”
Davis spoke at a hearing of the House Public Safety and Violence Prevention Task Force, which was formed in September by House Speaker Emanuel “Chris” Welch, D-Hillside, “to develop a collaborative approach to the violence crisis.”
Welch established the task force in the midst of Chicago and many other cities experiencing their most violent year in decades. In Chicago alone, there were 800 murders last year, the most in a quarter-century.
The panel is co-chaired by Chicago Democrats LaShawn K. Ford and Frances Ann Hurley.
The increase in violent crime has occurred shortly after the General Assembly passed the Safety, Accountability, Fairness, and Equity-Today, or SAFE-T Act, which included, among other things, the scheduled elimination of cash bail in Illinois beginning next year.
When that law takes effect on January 1, 2023, courts will still be able to detain people they believe pose a threat to public safety, but those who are not detained will be released on terms other than posting bond.
The bill was primarily sponsored by Ford in the House, and it was passed during a lame-duck session in January 2021. It was an Illinois Legislative Black Caucus initiative that arose in part as a result of a large number of police shootings of unarmed Black people, including the 2020 killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis, and a disproportionately large number of Blacks and Hispanics being held in jail awaiting trial because they couldn’t afford the price of bail.
However, it has come to be seen as part of a larger anti-law enforcement movement in some circles, and Republicans in the General Assembly have called for its repeal.
Lemont Police Chief Marc Maton stated that public criticism of policing, in general, has made officers less willing to take aggressive measures to combat crime.
“Our cops aren’t going to lie down,” he said emphatically. “They see the media, proposed legislation, and community commentary, and they believe that this is the role that is expected of them, that the community prefers a less aggressive approach to policing, and that this policing model is desired.”
Springfield Police Chief Kenny Winslow stated that his department has been losing officers who are trained in Illinois but later leave to work in states that they believe are more supportive of law enforcement.
“In the last year, I’ve lost three officers to the state of Indiana who is leaving for a state that they believe will be more supportive,” he said. “I recently spoke with an officer who is considering accepting a job in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, for the same reason, because they believe the state is more police friendly, more supportive of law enforcement.”
Meanwhile, Kankakee County Sheriff Mike Downey believes that removing cash bail from the system next year will exacerbate the problem of violent crime.
“Cashless bail has already been proven to not work in other states and has increased violent crime to record levels in those states, making those states more violent and less safe, which is what we’re attempting to avoid,” he said. “Cashless bail will also increase police interaction, which I believe the community would prefer to avoid.”
However, Rep. Lindsey LaPointe, D-Chicago, believes that the elimination of cash bail has been misunderstood.
“We’re taking money out of the equation when deciding whether or not to detain someone,” she explained. “And, unfortunately, under our current system, people can buy their way out of jail pretrial because someone decides it’ll cost them whatever $30,000 to get out.”
Ford attempted to dispel the notion that the SAFE-T Act was intended to be anti-law enforcement or that he himself was anti-law enforcement.
Ford attempted to dispel the notion that the SAFE-T Act was anti-law enforcement or that he himself was anti-law enforcement.
“Let me just say that I want to thank law enforcement for everything they do every day to make our streets safer and to work with communities,” he said. “I’m aware that law enforcement is caught in the crossfire. I’ll call the cops if I’m in trouble. And we want to do everything we can to ensure that the police are strong and well-educated in terms of public service.”
Follow us on Twitter