The following article includes personal commentary from the author.
UNION COUNTY, IL– A sheriff in Union County, Illinois has become at least the fourth sheriff in the state to turn in his badge after the state implemented something called the “Safe-T Act,” an anti-police group of measures dressed up with in the guise of “police reform.”
Union County, located in a rural area in the southern tip of the state, consists of 10 sworn deputies, currently dealing with an increasing number of meth-related drug offenses and psych cases that are typical in smaller communities, according to The Epoch Times.
Law enforcement in such areas are typically put in the position of having to wear multiple hats because resources, widely available in urban and suburban areas are hard to come by in smaller rural towns.
One might think that a state with the resources that Illinois done might do more to help such small agencies, however instead Democrats in Springfield, the state capital, make things much more difficult. And Sheriff Scott Harvel has seen enough.
After the legislature passed the “reform” act, Harvel said that he is no longer able to do the job he was sworn to do, that is protect the safety and welfare of county residents. So, after 34 years as a law enforcement officer, Harvel has submitted his resignation effective August 15, months before his term ends.
“My hope and prayers are that things come around and we get more support, but I don’t think we are going to see that happen for a long time,” Harvel told the Times.
The outlet reports that at least three other rural sheriffs in the central and southern parts of the state have decided to retire early as a direct result of the ill-conceived law, which will significantly tie the hands of law enforcement and make their job much more difficult.
All told, some 11 sheriffs statewide have decided to quit prior to the end of their elected terms following Gov. J.B. Pritzker (D) signing the legislation into law, according to Illinois Sheriff’s Association Executive Director Jim Katschuk.
The legislation bought into the nationwide craze among Democrats to “reimagine” or “reform” criminal justice, with many of the new requirements put in place to specifically tie the hands of law enforcement officials. In an era where crime spirals out of control, tying the hands of cops is ill-conceived and reckless.
The legislation, parts of which don’t go into effect until 2023, includes provisions allowing anonymous complaints against police officers, removes qualified immunity which opens the door to civil penalties against officers for practice violations (previously it was only for civil rights violations) and prohibits officers from arresting offenders for Class B and C misdemeanors.
“If someone trespasses [on] your property and refuses to leave, police cannot arrest the offender to protect you. I don’t want to be that sheriff that has to leave a resident in that kind of situation and say, ‘I am sorry. There is nothing I can do for you,’” Harvel said.
A number of major Illinois law enforcement organizations have slammed the SAFE-T Act, referring to it as a “monster bill” that allows criminals to run rampant and instead punishing police officers for trying to do their jobs.
A subsequent bill was passed, designed to address some of the police concerns within the bill, however Harvel said the basics of the act remain.
“When we have no ability to enforce the law, when we start going down that road, what will happen next?” he asked.
In June, Sheriff Don Koonce of the Shelby County sheriff’s office announced his resignation, also due to the SAFE-T Act.
“This decision wasn’t easy for me, but it was reaffirmed by the imminent changes in police reform,” Coons wrote in his resignation letter, reported by WAND-17. “I hope the Illinois General Assembly digs deeper into this reform and makes drastic changes. People’s security is at stake.”
Koonce said that it “was a pleasure and an honor” to serve Shelby County’s citizens, and he was blessed to work with outstanding men and women in the department.
Back in Union County, Harvel said the act has had a devastating effect on his deputies, noting that a young patrol officer in the office quit shortly after the act was passed. He noted a few more were also thinking of leaving to take positions with police agencies in other states. One other long-serving officer has decided he will retire in just over a year due to the act.
So what happens when these positions go vacant? Harvel thinks it will be difficult, if not impossible to fill the positions. He noted police hiring has been on a downward trend for years, and the new legislation will only make it worse.
That mirrors a nationwide trend where police agencies are having trouble attracting recruits in the wake of lack of support from political leaders and the escalation of attacks on police officers. He noted that only two people have applied for the most recent opening in his office.
“I used to have people knocking on the door to come work at the sheriff’s office. It was a great, great place to work. Now I have nobody,” Harvel said. “Think about a world without police officers. How would we function? That’s a scary thought.”
It’s also a dream of people like Ayanna Pressley (D-MA), Ilhan Omar (D-MN), Rashida Tlaib (D-MI), and others.
Law Enforcement Today previously reported on the “reform” bill passed in Illinois and how dangerous it is for state residents and police officers. For more on that, we invite you to:
SPRINGFIELD, IL – In the early morning hours under the cover of darkness, the Illinois Senate passed a controversial, quietly renamed police reform bill which one police chief says will lead to “mass retirements and resignations in police departments across Illinois.”
At about 4:49 a.m. on Wednesday, the Senate passed the “criminal justice reform” House Bill 3653. The bill, proposed by the Legislative Black Caucus, would eliminate cash bail, remove qualified immunity for officers, and eliminate the felony murder charge among other changes.
State Rep. Katie Stuart, D-said changes by the Illinois Senate to her legislation, House Bill 163, introduced December dealt w/ opioid tracking (PDMP) was replaced w/ 600 pg amendment law enforcement officials said is dangerous. https://t.co/SMpgS1Jsx8
— PAC (@PACRiseUp) January 13, 2021
The bill was originally H.B. 163 but was changed to H.B. 3653 after passage in the House when the Senate made amendments. The original H.B. 163 sponsor, State Representative Katie Stuart (D-Edwardsville), said Monday that she had no part in the changes to her bill, which was originally proposed as opioid legislation.
A bill that would make changes to policing, such as choke holds and qualified immunity, has moved through the Illinois Senate and onto the Illinois House for a vote. Read the bill here. https://t.co/XmqNZCyqfU
— WQAD (@wqad) January 13, 2021
The bill was meant to be a prescription drug monitoring bill but was hijacked by a January 4, 600-page amendment added by legislators. Stuart withdrew her support, saying:
“I want to be very clear that the police reform language in Senate Amendment 2 to House Bill 163 is not something I had any input on. My original bill was rewritten by the Senate sponsors without my consultation.
“My original version of House Bill 163 was about changes to Illinois’ prescription monitoring program. My bill simply required that controlled substance prescriptions be reported to an electronic database on the same day they are dispensed. The goal was to address the opioid crisis by helping catch people who doctor shop to obtain fraudulent prescriptions for opioids.”
The bill would also permit officers to be disciplined or terminated based on anonymous or unsubstantiated complaints from the public without a sworn affidavit and would require those complaints to be kept on the officer’s record indefinitely.
Local law enforcement officials voice their opposition to Illinois House Bill 163, saying it vilifies police and imposes unfunded mandates, but a supporter of the bill says people should choose "facts over fear" and give the bill a chance. https://t.co/EucbEqo0ZA
— Beloit Daily News (@BDNConnection) January 13, 2021
The bill has been attacked by Republicans and police officials across the state. Winnebago County Sheriff Gary Caruana spoke at a press conference called by several local law enforcement and government leaders Tuesday.
Sheriff Caruana said of the legislation:
“This is not an attack on law enforcement. This is (an) attack on the community, on victims of crime, because what it does is prevent us from doing our jobs.”
— Lisa (@spazz6156) January 13, 2021
The bill also prohibits the use of force in almost all situations and makes officers criminally liable for use of force. Loves Park Police Chief Chuck Lynde reacted:
“It will make it difficult, if not impossible, to hold suspects in custody when they have been accused of crimes. It prevents the use of force in almost all situations, including those which are life-threatening.”
The Illinois State Senate just voted for most anti-police bill in our lifetime. HB3453 (was HB163) passed the IL Senate 32-23 (AT 5AM) & heading back to IL House.#Dems introduced 700-page bill at 4AM & said it would be voted on in an hour (5AM) – while most of you were sleeping pic.twitter.com/SwXqmQoVds
— Chicago GOP (@ChicagoGOP) January 13, 2021
Chief Lunde’s sentiments were echoed by Love Park Mayor Gary Jury:
“It’s just flat out foolish. I hope our representatives see that and stand up and make a choice.”
The bill includes the elimination of cash bail and mandates the release of certain criminals without awaiting trial if they cannot afford bond.
One of the most controversial sections of H.B. 3653 eliminates qualified immunity, which protects officers from being sued unless a plaintiff can show clearly established statutory or constitutional rights were violated. Without qualified immunity, an officer could be sued for any action.
A number of law enforcement officers from around the Stateline getting ready to brief the media on House Bill 163 that would change criminal justice policies in Illinois. Watch on @23WIFR Facebook live pic.twitter.com/tE8ewbJwlj
— Kristin Camiliere (@KcamiliereTV) January 12, 2021
Section 5.5 of the bill reads:
“A peace officer, as defined in Section 2-13 of the Code of 2012, who subjects or causes to be subjected, including by failing to intervene, any other person to the deprivation of any individual rights arising under the Illinois Constitution, is liable to the injured party for legal or equitable relief or any other appropriate relief.
Sovereign immunities and statutory immunities and statutory limitations on liability, damages, or attorney’s fees do not apply to claims brought under this Section. The Local Governmental and Governmental Employees Tort Immunity Act does not apply to claims brought under this Section.
Qualified immunity is not a defense to liability under this Section.”
A massive police reform bill aims to end qualified immunity, limit use of force and eliminate cash bail.
It's been criticized as “the end of the law enforcement profession as we know it." https://t.co/1pn6qxQjN6
— Register Star (@rrstar) January 8, 2021
The United States Supreme Court recognized the importance of qualified immunity for officers in the decision of Pearson v. Callahan. In its decision, the court said:
“Qualified immunity balances two important interests—the need to hold public officials accountable when they exercise power irresponsibly and the need to shield officials from harassment, distraction, and liability when they perform their duties reasonably.”
The bill, however, does not remove qualified immunity from government officials or judges. It only removes the protection from police officers.
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State Senator Jason Plummer (R-Edwardsville) attacked the rushed method of the bill’s passage. He posted a statement on his Facebook page:
“This is it. The criminal law overhaul bill. 764 pages. We received it at 3:04 am. Debate started at 4:01 am. Who could’ve possibly read and reviewed this bill in less than an hour? This issue deserves a thorough and serious discussion.
“Sadly, it was instead jammed through the legislature during the early morning hours of this lame-duck session. This is not how our system of government is supposed to work.
“These types of shenanigans do not lead to a healthy democracy and, in this instance, they make our law enforcement personnel, our families, and our communities less safe. It’s 4:49 am. It just passed the Illinois State Senate.”
Sen. Plummer also attacked the process of hijacking H.B. 163 and changing the name, calling it “smoke and mirrors”:
“This is what they think of you, Illinois…You stood up loud and clear and let the Democrat majority know that you don’t support their radical anti-police legislation, HB163. They saw that the vast majority of Illinoisans rejected these extreme ideas and so they’ve decided to no longer push HB163.
“But they think they can trick you. Instead of standing with our law enforcement and listening to the voices of Illinoisans, they’ve moved the extreme language to new legislation, HB3653, and are pushing it.
“Smoke & Mirrors. That’s all it is. Stand with our police and keep our families and communities safe, tell the Democrat majority that Illinois doesn’t support their radical anti-police legislation and their extreme ideology, no matter the bill’s number. This legislation is an attack on the law enforcement profession and endangers our families and communities.”
ILLINOIS POLICE REFORM BILL: A modified version of the comprehensive social justice police reform bill is now headed to the House. https://t.co/8zzoIsCEZX
— Eyewitness News WTVO/WQRF (@MyStateline) January 13, 2021
Glen Carbon Police Chief Todd Link issued a statement opposing the legislation, saying that the “reforms” will destroy law enforcement:
“(The bill) would effectively end professional law enforcement throughout the state of Illinois… Should this law become law, there would be no need to defund the police because it would lead to mass retirements and resignations in police departments across Illinois like those happening in Minneapolis, San Francisco, Seattle, Portland, and New York City.”
The Illinois State Attorneys Association opposed the bill, saying:
“(The bill) will profoundly undermine public safety and overturn long=standing common-sense policies and practices in the criminal justice system.”
Illinois Police Reform Bill Labeled ‘Wrong, Disastrous, Dangerous’ : Illinois lawmakers have introduced a major criminal justice reform bill that includes ending cash bail and qualified immunity for police… https://t.co/DKgFYdAvFl #NewsletterTop #Policing #ReformingtheSystem pic.twitter.com/RpLy6Ugw11
— Women in Forensics (@womeninforensic) January 12, 2021
Early today, The Southern Illinois Police Chiefs Association issued a statement as an open letter to citizens of Southern Illinois. The association states that many police executives object to the bill:
“It will have a devastating effect on the ability of Illinois police officers to keep their communities safe. One has to wonder why our legislators would rush a 600+ page piece of legislation, attempting to keep the contents hidden from those it will impact.”
It ends qualified immunity, eliminates for most crimes, and enacts draconian regulations on law enforcement. The bill is 611 pages I got through half which was more than enough to realize this bill will make Illinois less safe.
— Evan Kulak (@EvanKulak) January 13, 2021
House Bill 3653 will now be returned to the House for a concurrence vote.
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