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Local law enforcement worry about HB 163’s unfunded mandates, State Rep. points to source

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ROCKFORD (WREX) — Six days ago, Democratic Senator Elgie Sims submitted a controversial 611-page criminal justice reform bill. Since then, we've covered it from multiple angles.

Last Thursday, we first did a story about just some of what's in the bill.

On Friday, we dug deeper to find out how it would impact our court system.

On Monday, we continued our coverage by speaking directly to those in law enforcement as well as legislators to get all the answers because in less than 48 hours, lawmakers could approve these sweeping changes.

Winnebago County Sheriff Gary Caruana told 13 WREX he only learned of this police reform bill a few days ago, a bill he opposes and calls "an attack on the community."

"To try and push this document through in a 'lame duck' session, I don't know, very, very, very concerning," Caruana said.

Sheriff Caruana takes issue with ending cash bail, or getting rid of the percentage of bond people need to pay to get out jail before their trial. He's also critical of eliminating qualified immunity for police officers, which gives officers protection from being sued if they're accused of violating a person's rights.

But Sen. Sims says reform is necessary.

"Members of the community don't trust that law enforcement has their best interests at heart," Sims explained. "They believe that there are two systems of justice and that's certainly not a perspective that we can have."

Sims represents the 17th District, which is the Chatham neighborhoods of Chicago.

Another concern for Caruana, and other local law enforcement, is funding.
The bill includes several unfunded mandates for things like additional training and body cameras.

"I think some departments would find it impossible to do in the short term," Loves Park Police Chief Chuck Lynde said. "Some municipalities might not be able to afford body cameras."

And even though Lynde explained his department recently went through de-escalation training for the second time, and the department is also in the process of getting body cameras, Loves Park doesn't collect a property tax. Mayor Greg Jury said that would be a problem if this bill is passed because it would leave Loves Park with fewer options to find the funding than other municipalities.

"We would have to make some very tough decisions as far as personnel," Jury said. "Do we eliminate personnel to pay for some of these unfunded mandates?"

And if the bill is passed, some of those decisions may need to come quickly because portions of the bill are effective immediately, while others would go into effect Jan. 1, 2022.

But local Democratic State Representative Maurice West, who supports the bill and helped draft some the legislation, including 40 hours of mandated crisis intervention training, told 13 WREX in a phone call late Monday night, those unfunded mandates will have a funding source.

"The biggest way we have to fund it is, we're looking at cannabis revenue," West explained.

But despite the strong opposition from local law enforcement, ultimately lawmakers will get the final say on whether this reform bill moves forward or not. However, it's unclear when a vote could happen. As of right now, it's not scheduled for a vote in either chamber. But for it to pass, it must be voted on before noon on Wednesday when the new legislature is seated.

Read the full text of HB 163 here.

Richard Bodee

Richard Bodee is a reporter at WREX. He joined the 13 WREX team in June 2019 after graduating from DePaul University with a Master’s degree in broadcast journalism.

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