Local law enforcement, activists, share mixed feelings about police reform bill

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An Illinois police and criminal justice reform bill is gaining reactions from many, including local activists and law enforcement.

A move in the right direction is how a Bloomington activist describes what is now known as House Bill 3653, which received approval from the Illinois House and Senate.

“I think that this bill is an incredible first step in addressing some of the serious issues we have around policing, especially policing communities of color,” said Zachary Gettrich, member of Bloomington-Normal Chapter of Democratic Socialists of America.

Pekin Police Chief John Dossey says he understands that there is room for improvement in policing.

“I’m certainly not in opposition to change. I think improvement’s something we’re working towards,” Dossey said.

While acknowledging the potential for change, there is a belief among state and local law enforcement leaders that there was a rush to pass the bill in a lame-duck session.

“Representative Justin Slaughter who is one of the co-sponsors wasn’t even able to debate what’s in the bill because he had no knowledge and had to keep asking staff,” said Sheriff Jon Sandage with the McLean County Sheriff’s Office.

Dossey said even after the reform legislation received the OKby elected officials, police were waiting to learn what was and wasn’t included.

“It’s a big bill, it’s a lot of change. I think there a lot of issues trying to be addressed all at once and I’m not so sure everything has been properly vetted,” Dossey said.

Gettrich believes that while law enforcement fell the process was too quick, this type of change was a long time coming.

“This was not a sudden thing. The Black Lives Matter movement started in 2012. This is years and years in the making,” Gettrich said.

He said activists are excited about the change included in HB 3653, but are not satisfied yet.

“Some of the things that were taken out of the bill that we would definitely like to see in the next round is getting rid of qualified immunity (and) limitations on police unions,” he said.

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