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Local police departments say new crime bill leaves more questions than answers

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WINNEBAGO COUNTY (WREX) — While Illinois Governor JB Pritzker signed a sweeping criminal justice bill on Monday, that doesn't mean the effects are immediate or clear to the people enforcing the law line Winnebago County Chief Deputy Rick Ciganek or Rochelle Police Chief Eric Higby.

"A lot of this language is confusing," Ciganek said. "It's conflicting, so we're not sure what that's going to look like."

"Some of this is still up in the air," Higby said. "A lot of wording is just not clear to us."

That uncertainty for Ciganek starts with the new mandated training. Not only does Ciganek wonder how departments will pay for the new training, but for the training itself which doesn't even exist yet.

"First of all the course still has to be developed," Ciganek said. "So we'll wait for the Illinois Law Enforcement Training and Standards Board to come up with this."

For Higby on the other hand says the main issue comes with staffing during the 30 hour training. His department employs 18 sworn officers and one K9 unit to police Rochelle's 9,000 residents.

"It's a challenge because we run pretty short shifts at times," Higby said. "If you're talking about taking one or two of those guys off the street at any one time, it just seems like Murphy's Law. That's when your calls are going to come in and you're going to wish you had a full crew out there."

Another requirement under the bill is for each department to equip body cameras. Loves Park Police Chief Chuck Lynde says even though he had his department ready to get cameras this year, the language around the requirements has him holding off on equipping them indefinitely.

"We're ready to move now," Lynde said. "But because of the language, we won't add body cameras until we're required to or until there is an amendment."

Body cameras will be required by the state by 2025. Mandates from the bill won't start to take place until July at the earliest.

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William Ingalls

William Ingalls is the weekend reporter at WREX. He joined the team in 2019 as a photographer after graduating with a Bachelor’s Degree in Journalism and English from Augustana College. William was born and raised in Rockford and went to high school at Christian Life.

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