CHARLESTON — Law enforcement leaders in Coles County have voiced concerns regarding the criminal justice reform bill that Gov. J.B. Pritzker singed into law on Monday.
Both Charleston Police Chief Chad Reed and Coles County Chief Deputy Tyler Heleine said they are particularly concerned about a provision that limits law enforcement to just issuing citations in most cases of criminal trespass. Heleine said that law enforcement, technically, would not be able to make the person who is trespassing leave in those instances.
"That concerns me for law enforcement and concerns me for our citizens," Heleine said. Reed added that he worries citizens might take action on their own to remove trespassers, which could create dangerous situations.
Reed said he also takes issue with a provision that would not allow officers to view their body camera footage before they write their reports. He said writing reports based just on their memory would be challenging and he does not understand why the new law would not allow for the most accurate reporting possible.
In addition, Reed said he sees problems arising from a provision that would restrict officers from using force to stop a fleeing suspect if they believe that they can apprehend that suspect later without force. He said this could increase the number of people who flee from police during traffic stops or other occasions.
The new law also includes a potentially problematic requirement for suspects to have access to their cellphones while in police custody, Reed said, adding that investigators often obtain essential information from cellphones.
"It takes a matter of seconds to wipe a cellphone clean," Reed said. "The suspects could easily wipe their cellphones clean and we couldn't do anything about it."
Heleine said the new law does require actions that local law enforcement has already taken, such as putting body cameras into use and prohibiting choke holds. Reed added that local police already are required to intercede if a fellow officer breaks the law or standards of conduct.
“Like some other elements of society, politicians that voted in favor of this bill have confused emotion with intellect. Just because it feels like something is a good thing to do really doesn’t mean that it is," said Mattoon Police Chief Jason Taylor. “Some police officers and agencies will be paralyzed by the fear of litigation. I suspect that many elements of this bill will be walked back by calmer, reasoned minds in the future.”
Although supporters have said the new law was created after long hours of discussion, Heleine said that many in the law enforcement community feel that they were not told about all the provisions until late and that the supporters were not responsive to calls for further discussion.
"We were still hoping there would be more discussion on some of the main points," Heleine said.