Illinois Chiefs respond to governor’s “7 reform principles” 

October 8, 2020

Governor JB Pritzker issued a statement Tuesday, October 6, 2020, proposing “seven guiding principles that will be foundational in the administration’s plans to take action, in partnership with the General Assembly, to reform and modernize the state’s criminal justice system.” A description of his seven principles is here.

The Illinois Association of Chiefs of Police issues this initial response:

  • Reforms: The Illinois Chiefs support reforms that would improve the criminal justice system for all Illinoisans and have been in discussions with legislators on several reform topics.

  • Victims’ rights: The concerns of victims of crimes are not taken into consideration in many of these reform proposals. The Illinois Chiefs intend to be an outspoken advocate for crime victims – victims of abuse and neglect, violence, sexual assault, property crimes, and so on.

  • Mental health: We support additional resources for mental health services and other community services that might provide an alternative to arrest, but these resources should not be used to reduce law enforcement funding.

  • Illinois is already a leader in reforms: The governor’s principles ignore or forget all of the great work routinely done by law enforcement, attorneys, state’s attorneys, victims’ advocates, and judges. The Pritzker Administration repeatedly ignores opportunities to recognize the service and commitment to safe communities that is carried out daily by law enforcement every day in every Illinois county. If it did, it would recognize that “reform” is already happening and that Illinois has been a leader in police reforms in the past five years, notably in the landmark Police Improvement and Community Relations Act of 2015. That law outlawed chokeholds and requires training every three years on such important topics as cultural competency, procedural justice, and more.

  • Evidence-based solutions: There are multiple facets to each of the governor’s seven principles. Each is complicated and should be comprehensively evaluated. Changes need to be data-driven and informed by best practices. Policy changes also must recognize that every community is different and that a change that some might view as necessary in Chicago might have an adverse effect in other Illinois communities and make them less safe.

  • Stay at the table: On several of the issues in the governor’s seven principles, the Illinois Chiefs and others have been in productive conversations all summer with the legislature and the Illinois Attorney General. We respectfully ask that these conversations continue “at the table” before formal legislative proposals emerge. We are open to reforms and believe we have a lot to contribute.

  • One of those issues is use of force. The Illinois Chiefs have been talking to legislators about a standardized policy, and we believe these discussions should continue. A national consensus policy on use of force has been adopted by many organizations and would provide a sound starting point, though not everything in that policy would apply to Illinois.

  • School Resource Officers: Many school districts in the state are adding SROs and believe in their value. Any decision on maintaining them and funding them should remain at the local level.

  • Don’t demand what’s already happening: Some of the language in the governor’s statement feels inflammatory to law enforcement and does not contribute to collaborative solutions. For example, a proposal in the governor’s document “requiring police officers to apply first aid after using force” ignores the fact that this is already common practice, required by many departments’ policies.

  • Strong Law Enforcement Coalition: To develop unified proposals on police reforms, the Illinois Chiefs are working closely with a Law Enforcement Coalition that includes the Illinois Sheriffs’ Association, Fraternal Order of Police, Fraternal Order of Police Labor Council, and FOP Lodge 7. Our president, Chief James R. Black, and our Legislative Committee leaders meet regularly with the coalition.