Illinois Passes Police Reform Law
“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. 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.” Statement of Representative Elgie Sims (D-Chicago), who spearheaded the legislation in the House.
“Illinois has set the standard, set the standard nationally.” Statement of Illinois State Senator Kwame Raoul, who co-sponsored the Bill in the state senate.
Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner signed the bill into law, which will take full effect in January 2016. Currently the state is forming a commission to review training requirements and other issues. The commission is scheduled to report to legislators and Governor Rauner by the end of January.
Some of the highlights of the new law.
The Police and Community Relations Improvement Act is 174 pages.
Each officer-involved death investigation shall be conducted by at least 2 investigators. No investigator can be employed by the law enforcement agency that employs the officer involved in the officer-involved death, unless the investigator is employed by the Department of State Police and is not assigned to the same division or unit as the officer involved in the death.
Investigation reports shall be given to the State’s Attorney of the county in which the officer-involved death occurred. If the State’s Attorney, or a designated special prosecutor determines there is no basis to prosecute the law enforcement officer involved in the death, or if the law enforcement officer is not otherwise charged or indicted, the investigators shall publicly release a report.
A $5 increase in traffic fines will be dedicated to providing grants to pay for body cameras and training. Body cameras must be turned on at all times when the officer is in uniform and is responding to calls for service or engaged in any law enforcement-related encounter or activity, that occurs while the officer is on-duty. The cameras must be able to record for up to 10 hours, and footage will be held for 90 days before being destroyed unless it has been flagged because of a complaint or as part of an investigation.
No officer may hinder or prohibit any person who is not a law enforcement officer from recording a law enforcement officer in the performance of his or her duties in a public place or when the officer has no reasonable expectation of privacy.
An officer shall not use a choke hold in the performance of his or her duties, unless deadly force is justified. Choke holds and any lesser contact with the throat or neck area is forbidden to prevent the destruction of evidence by ingestion.
Police officers will be required to issue a receipt to citizens that they stop for suspicion. The receipt must contain the officer’s name and badge number, and note the reason for the stop.
California Aims For More Accountability
Also this week, California has become the first state to ban grand juries in police shooting cases. California Governor Jerry Brown signed the bill into law. The new law leaves it up to the prosecutor to decide whether to charge a police officer who uses deadly force. Many believe this will lead to more transparency and accountability, because grand jury proceedings are secretive and confidential.
State Senator Holly Mitchell who authored the bill said, “The use of the criminal grand jury process, and the refusal to indict as occurred in Ferguson and other communities of color, has fostered an atmosphere of suspicion that threatens to compromise our justice system.”
Governor Brown also signed a bill that ensures the right of civilians to record or photograph the police in public areas. In the past, some civilians who have done so were arrested for obstructing justice.