On February 4, 2021, the Illinois General Assembly forwarded a historic reform bill to the state’s governor for signature. The governor, having signaled strong support for House Bill 3653, is expected to sign it into law. When signed, the law will go into effect in 2023. It will bring progressive changes to the state’s police and criminal system. Here are some of the changes to look for:
Increase in police accountability and transparency
The bill introduces several measures to improve police accountability and transparency when interacting with the public. It calls for all police officers in Illinois to use body cameras by 2025. The law also requires police to report the deaths of individuals in their custody. And it expands and improves the database for officer misconduct.
Reforms in police certification
Currently, police officers can lose their license if they are convicted of certain crimes or plea nolo contendere. They would also lose their license if they receive a conditional discharge. The new bill adds the following crimes to this provision:
- Public indecency
- Harassment by phone
- Evidence interference
- Interfering with the reporting of domestic violence
- Transmission of obscene messages
- Harassment through electronic communication
- Domestic battery
Improved training and assistance to officers
Police training will now include training in first-aid, crisis intervention and deescalation tactics. To help them cope with the job, police will receive routine, confidential, mental health screenings and counseling.
Installs new protections for the public
Under the new law, police officers cannot charge an individual with resisting arrest if that was the sole offense. The law bans the choke-hold as a police tactic and improves current whistle-blower protections. It extends the use-of-force restrictions placed on police officers to bounty hunters. And if officers witness excessive use of force by other officers, the law will require them to intervene.
Enhanced protections for citizens and detainees
Detainees will have the right to 3 phone calls within the first 3 hours of detention. Written rights of detainees must be on full display in police stations and booking rooms. The contact number of the public defender must also be on display.
If a prisoner experiences a medical emergency, officers must act promptly to get the prisoner treatment. And while in custody, pregnant prisoners will have access to new additional services.
Reforms in the criminal justice system
Some reforms are designed to keep more people out of prison. Criminal courts will now have other options to use besides mandatory minimums during sentencing. The law will divert people with less than a four-month prison sentence from prison to electronic monitoring. It also brings changes to the three-strikes rule and eliminates the practice of monetary bail use.