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This article will discuss some of the significant changes in police reform, that have resulted due to the new Illinois Criminal Justice Reform Act. We will cover the following topics: Changes in the Illinois “Use of Force” Guidelines, Complaints Against Officers For Misconduct in Illinois, Body Cameras Laws In Illinois and, New Law Enforcement Training Laws in Illinois.
This article will discuss some of the significant changes in police reform, that have resulted due to the new Illinois Criminal Justice Reform Act. We will cover the following topics:
- Changes in the Illinois “Use of Force” Guidelines
- Complaints Against Officers For Misconduct in Illinois
- Body Cameras Laws In Illinois
- New Law Enforcement Training Laws in Illinois
On February 22, 2021, Illinois Governor JB Pritzker signed into law a sweeping reform of the state’s criminal justice system, which includes changes to a defendant’s pre-trial and trial rights (for more information on these changes, see our other “Learn About Law” article here). In addition, this bill enacts some of the largest policing reforms in recent Illinois history. These reforms are intended to increase police accountability to the public, while allowing the complaint process by the public to be easier and more transparent.
Over the years, the national spotlight has shone on those officers who go beyond their motto of “to protect and serve” and cross the line from acceptable force to excessive force. Police distrust and tensions between the public and law enforcement grows higher. This reform bill was passed in order to help protect both those citizens who are injured or illegally detained by police officers, as well as to protect those officers who are attempting to make positive changes in the neighborhoods they patrol.
Changes in the Illinois “Use of Force” Guidelines
Each and every interaction between a citizen and an officer is different. In a number of face-to-face situations, there may be some level of force used in order to detain and/or arrest someone. What amount of force is appropriate for an officer to use? Because of the uniqueness of each interaction, whether the amount of force used by an officer against a citizen has been judged on a case-by-case basis. For example, handcuffs are not meant to be comfortable. When being cuffed, a citizen may have a few marks or indentations on his or her wrists when the handcuffs come off. Now, if an arrestee is cuffed too tightly that loss of blood flow occurs, or bones are broken, that evidence could show the officer’s use of force was excessive.
Additionally, there are a number of different “use of force models” that police officers and sheriffs use. What may be considered excessive force in one town may not be in a different city or county. The Illinois Criminal Justice Reform Act aims to make what is and is not excessive force uniform throughout the state. Under the new law, a singular statewide model of use of force will be in place by January 1, 2022.
In addition, the Act makes the following important changes related to use of force:
- An officer may be justified in using force if, looking at all of the circumstances, the officer believes the force is required to protect himself of another person from being physically harmed.
- An officer cannot use deadly force against someone if the other person does not pose an imminent threat of death or serious bodily injury to the officer or another person.
- Officers are no longer allowed to use chokeholds or any force that might cause the person to stop breathing, unless deadly force is justified.
- Law enforcement agencies are encouraged to adopt and develop policies designed to protect individuals with physical, mental health, developmental, or intellectual disabilities.
- Officers cannot shoot certain projectiles (e.g., rubber bullets) toward the head, pelvis or back, discharging firearms or projectiles indiscriminately into a crowd, or using chemical agents or irritants including pepper spray and tear gas before issuing an order to disperse, followed by sufficient time and space to allow for compliance with the order to disperse.
- Regarding use of force to prevent escape, a peace officer who has an arrested person in custody is justified in the use of force, but not deadly force, to prevent escape.
- Officers now have a legal duty to intervene if s/he sees another officer using unauthorized force. The officer who intervenes in the use of force cannot be punished for doing so.
Complaints Against Officers For Misconduct in Illinois
The new Act also makes the process of filing complaints against police officers and having those claims investigated quicker and more transparent. Officers have their own legal statute that addresses disciplinary and use of force complaints. The Uniform Peace Officers’ Disciplinary Act (called “UPODA” for short) gives an officer certain rights and certain protections when being investigated for allegations of wrongdoing. The new Act limits some of those protections the officers have had in the past.
- Sworn Affidavits: In the past, an investigation for wrongdoing by a police officer could not legally go forward unless the person complaining signed a complaint listing all of the allegations against the officers, and had it notarized. Many times, this requirement would discourage a victim of police misconduct from proceeding forward with a complaint, either out of fear of the officer finding out who made the complaint, or out of retaliation. This is no longer the case. One can now make a complaint without having to swear to it.
- Anonymous Complaints: Until the passage of this Act, anonymous complaints were rarely investigated, under the thought that if there was no victim that could be identified, or wished to be identified, then the allegations were an unnecessary waste of time and money. However, beginning January 1, 2023, any person may file an anonymous complaint against an officer to the investigating authorities. A preliminary review will be made, and if there is verifiable evidence that can validate the claim, an investigation will move forward.
- Notification: Under UPODA, an officer that is the target of a complaint had a legal right to be informed of the identity of the person(s) complaining and who was conducting the investigation. The officer was entitled to know this information prior to being interviewed. Under the Act, this requirement is now erased. This ensures an officer does not have the opportunity to retaliate against the person complaining, or to prepare a justifiable version of events when giving a statement.
Body Cameras Laws In Illinois
By January 1, 2025, all officers, sheriffs, and State Troopers throughout Illinois will be required to use officer-worn body cameras in their interactions with citizens, whether it is, among other things, for a traffic stop or in order to determine if excessive force has been used. Officers will be trained as to when they must begin recording an interaction, to when that interaction is completed. In the past, in situations where a body camera was in use, and there was a possibility that excessive force may have been used, an officer would go back and watch his/her body camera in order to help him/her write an incident report. With the passage of this Act, officers may no longer look at their own body camera footage; only a supervisor may do so now. In addition, if an officer knowingly chooses not to use the body camera equipment when supposed to, or if the officer attempts to tamper with or try to erase footage, the officer may be charged criminally with a felony, with a possible sentence of up to five years in prison.
Furthermore, prior to executing a “no-knock warrant”, EVERY officer involved in the execution of the search warrant must wear a body camera at all times. The officers are to use the cameras to locate any children, elderly persons, etc. If an officer executes the warrant at the wrong address, the officer has to notify a supervisor immediately so an internal investigation can be opened.
New Law Enforcement Training Laws in Illinois
The new Act requires that new officers, as well as seasoned veterans, receive more training in handling situations where use of force may be required. Crisis intervention training is now required yearly. Officers must complete bias and racial and ethnic sensitivity training on a regular basis. Officers will now receive specialized training in responding to, and interacting with, persons with mental illness. Officer wellness and mental health training is now a yearly requirement. All of these requirements are to attempt to dramatically reduce, if not eliminate, the tragedies we see and read about all too often.
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