Governor Pritzker signs “anti-police bill”
levels cheap shot at opponents like us;

this is not and never has been us versus them

By Ed Wojcicki
ILACP Executive Director

February 22, 2021

Most of the news reports today are saying that Governor Pritzker signed a “criminal justice reform bill” today, meaning HB 3653.

I prefer to call it the “anti-police bill,” a term that the bill’s sponsors object to. But the bill unfairly targets officers and attempts to punish them, not just make them accountable. Just one example: One provision that says officers cannot review their own body-camera video before writing a report. That is “gotcha” language. That would be like saying television reporters cannot review any video they shot before writing a story for the airwaves. Sounds crazy, doesn’t it?

Need more evidence? A letter from a former Illinois chief that we posted on Facebook on Friday, predicting a significant departure of officers from Illinois if the bill is signed, already has been shared more than 3,100 times and has had more than 58,000 “engagements” by social media users. That is well beyond what a reasonable person would see as a hot topic, and it demonstrates grave concern about the negative effects of this bill on their careers.

A Law Enforcement Coalition statement sums it up well: “This new law is a blatant move to punish an entire, honorable profession that will end up hurting law-abiding citizens the most.”

Trailer bill cleanup language badly needed

The primary explanation I’ve heard for supporting this bill are general statements like “We have to do something” and “The time is now for reform.” The sad truth is, it’s an illogical leap from “We’ve got to do something” to “We have to support and sign this problematic 764-page bill.”

The bill has serious flaws that have been well-documented in our fact sheets and updates, but today the bill became law. The public will learn more about these flaws when they see for themselves that common-sense tools needed by the police, state’s attorneys, and the courts have been stripped by this law.

As President Black said in his statement, legislators already have admitted that a trailer bill is needed to fix the serious language problems in the bill. I commend Attorney General Kwame Raoul for mentioning today that he has talked to President Black, and he knows we are willing to work with him on better language. Also, the bill’s sponsors mentioned today our Coalition’s 15-point proactive plan aimed at modernizing policing and their willingness to continue talking to us as well about issues with the bill.

The cheap shot

So I’m disappointed that Governor Pritzker took a cheap shot at so many of us by saying that the bill’s opponents “don’t want any change.” Perhaps nobody told him about the dozens of progressive suggestions that we have actually made, not only in recent months, but going back for decades.

Perhaps, also, nobody told him that Lt. Governor Juliana Stratton has called our initiative of building trust one conversation at a time with the NAACP Illinois State Conference a model for the nation.

It's not us versus them

I am very concerned that the media will describe the bill signing today as an us versus them kind of day – law enforcement vs. the governor and the Black Caucus, or even worse, law enforcement versus communities of color in Illinois. That undermines more than five years of effort by us and community leaders to build trust with our Ten Shared Principles, developed with the NAACP Illinois State Conference.

Work on the trailer bill, thankfully, already has begun. That’s the real work now -- the mundane out-of-the-spotlights effort to work with legislators on a trailer to fix the most serious problems with this bill.