Illinois Police Workforce Crisis Exacerbated by Criminal Justice Overhaul

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The Epoch Times

CHICAGO—Since Illinois lawmakers passed a major criminal justice reform bill in January, five Illinois sheriffs have retired early and six sheriffs are set to retire this summer, according to Illinois Sheriff Association (ISA) executive director Jim Kaitschuk.

“This is the most I’ve seen. They’re quitting as a direct result of the legislation,” Kaitschuk told The Epoch Times.

In a typical year, only one or two sheriffs would quit before serving their full terms, according to Kaitschuk. On top of the early retirements, over 20 Illinois sheriffs have decided not to seek reelection when their terms end.

“It’s sad because these are individuals that have given their life to a profession that they obviously love and are passionate about, and I hate to see them leave under the circumstances that they are,” Kaitschuk said.

The recently enacted SAFE-T Act made sweeping changes to the Illinois criminal justice system, including abolishing cash bail in two years, creating a statewide certification program for police officers, mandating body cameras for all Illinois officers by 2025, and allowing anonymous complaints against police officers.

Gov. J.B. Pritzker (D) hailed the SAFE-T Act as ensuring “true safety, true fairness, and true justice.” But five major Illinois law enforcement organizations, including ISA, derided it as “a monster bill” that punishes police officers for doing their jobs and allows criminals to roam free.

For example, the SAFE-T Act makes it a felony for officers if they forget to turn on body-worn cameras while on duty, prohibits officers from reviewing body-camera videos before writing police reports, and has ambiguous language that appears to prohibit officers from aiming a taser at an offender’s back—which is a common practice recommended by many taser manufacturers.

A follow-up bill has addressed some police concerns with the SAFE-T Act but Kaitschuk said the original intent and direction remain unchanged. He is also concerned about other police reform bills in the lawmakers’ pipeline, including one that seeks to abolish the qualified immunity of police officers.


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