New bill could require Illinois law enforcement to have social work degree

Digital Originals

PEORIA, Ill. (WMBD) — Reforming Illinois law enforcement is still a priority for some state lawmakers.

A new bill would add additional educational requirements for Illinois police officers, but some members of law enforcement think this would cripple their department.

State Rep. Jaime Andrade (D-Chicago) is proposing a bill that would require all police officers to have any bachelor’s degree with a major or minor in social work.

Nathan Hastings, a deputy sheriff in the Tazewell County Crime Prevention Unit, said requiring officers to study social work is a game-changer, but it could have benefits.

“With individuals that deal with mental health issues or a crisis, it allows us to have a better understanding of what that individual is going through,” he said.

However, Tazewell County Sheriff Jeff Lower is not thrilled about the idea, saying only about 25% of his department has some sort of bachelor’s degree.

“It’s not the education that makes the person. It’s the person. It’s the hiring practice [and] the vetting of their history. My belief is that it’s the hiring practice that makes a difference- not the degree,” he said.

He said his department is already experiencing a police shortage, and extra requirements will stop application submissions.

WMBD reached out to Rep. Andrade, but have not yet heard back.

If passed, the bill would also allow partial reimbursements to eligible individuals if they are hired on as a permanent officer.

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