Local law enforcement speaks out against proposed police reform bill

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WABASH COUNTY, Ill. (WEHT)– Illinois legislators are scheduled to vote Wednesday on a bill which would alter policing in Illinois. If House Bill 163 passes, cash bails will be a thing of the past and it will be easier to sue police. It’s is a new criminal justice reform bill proposed by the state’s Legislative Black Caucus, but it’s stirring up some controversy.

“It’s a bad bill in the eyes of law enforcement,” said Wabash County Sheriff Derek Morgan. He thinks this bill will do more than reform. “That [bill] would change policing all together in Illinois.”

If passed, the bill would put an end to cash bails following an arrest. Sheriff Morgan believes this would be dangerous.

“Judges need to have provisions so they can look at to decide if they need to keep someone in custody or not,” Sheriff Morgan explained. He has reached out to lawmakers expressing his concern about the bill. It will also end qualified immunity, making it easier to personally sue law enforcement officials. “Our judges, state’s attorney, and our legislators have immunity. Why do we have to take it away from police? I mean it doesn’t make it impossible to sue a police officer.”

If this bill becomes law, special prosecutors will have to be used in officer in involved deaths. It will also require police misconduct records be put in a database.

“The person making the complaint can act anonymously and not have to sign a sworn affidavit,” said Sheriff Morgan. “I think that’s ludicrous. They want to build a database where those will stack up against you and it can be revenge lawsuits or revenge complaints.”

Sheriff Morgan said recruiting and retaining sheriff’s deputies have been difficult and fears these proposed changes will make it even tougher. He still believes a law enforcement reform is necessary.

“The big issue about this is they’re trying to push these bills through in a lame duck session and we would like to sit down and discuss these bills and come up with an approach that would be good for communities and law enforcement as a whole.”

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(This story was originally published on January 11, 2021)

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