There are currently 169 different pieces of legislation that affect our members in one way or another. Some could have a positive impact on our well being, but a majority of them could very well change the way we police society and several could be downright dangerous to officers working the streets.
Many experts familiar with the legislative process here in Illinois will tell you that our some 169 issues is simply a drop in the proverbial bucket in relation to the thousands of pieces of legislation introduced each year in Springfield. However, those same experts also admit that they have never seen such an influx of police reform measures introduced in the legislature. Will they all survive the legislative process? Probably not. Will there be some impact on policing here in Illinois? Probably so.
It would be unproductive to list all the bills here in which our lobbyists and your legislative committee are following, as many of them will not see the light of day (i.e. die in committee). However, to give you an idea of what is going on in your world, we can break down the issues into basically five categories. Pension Reform, Police Reform, Labor Reform, Governmental Funding and Pro Law Enforcement initiatives.
As we all know state pension reform measures are in front of the Illinois Supreme Court however that hasn’t stopped some from attempting to alter pension plans. To name a few: HB134 attempts to create a third tier for state employees and shift costs of the teacher’s retirement system to local school districts. HB239 aims to make the Attorney General a party to any felony forfeiture proceedings of a pension fund. HB1336 suspends the pension of a police officer who returns to work and HB3762 allows a municipality to change the terms of the pension code.
There are currently some 38 bills introduced and can be broken down into sub categories. There are the “Feel Good Reform” measures that are well intended, but for the most part address matters already being done. For example; House Bills 104, 105 and 4103 deal with sensitivity training for the police and House Bills 4030 and 3784 creates commissions or task forces to review use of force issues while HB4112 requires crisis management training. There are several “Body Camera Initiatives” introduced this session, such as HB 1518, 1554, 3992, and SB 21, SB709, SB710 and SB880. Another trend in police reform are the “Prohibitions Against Chokeholds” legislation under HB161, 1394, 1462, 3312, and SB65. Then there are the “Reporting” type bills. Bills such as HB2938 and HB3181 that requires some form of reporting any time a subject is stopped without an arrest. Or HB4040 requiring all police weapon discharges to be reported to the Illinois Law Enforcement Training and Standards Board. And of course there are bills that “Border on the Absurd” such as SB726 making it legal to signal with lights the presence of a police officer and SB779 prohibiting a police officer from searching a vehicle based exclusively on consent. Or HB3829 that eliminates a police officer's justified use of deadly force to defeat a resistance to arrest. There are several bills introduced this year that address “Police Involved Shootings” such as HB291, SB80 which call for the use special prosecutors, and HB221 and SB71 which mandates written departmental policy on the investigation of officer involved deaths.
In the area of organized labor there are some general reform issues that affect all, such as attacks on workers compensation which diminishes benefits on one way or another in HB2014, HB2419, HB2420 HB2421, HB2422 and HB3881 and reductions in unemployment benefits in HB418 and HB3874. And there are initiatives in opening up severance agreements by making them subject to FOIA under HB4045 and HB303. Then there are the bills more specific to the law enforcement community such as HB2453 and HB2764 which diminish police and firefighter rights under the interest arbitration provisions of the Illinois Public Labor Relations Act. And of course we have HB4139 which, if enacted would create the Right to Work Act and provide that a person may not be required to join or contribute to a labor organization as a condition of employment.
In this area, matters are much more elusive, as the very way we fund government is in constant flux. For example, as the state of Illinois adjusts its budget and cuts funding to community initiatives (and agencies) throughout the state, those local initiatives which are mostly directed towards the needs of the disadvantaged are either absorbed by local governments or eliminated. Either way, the impact upon our members is considerable. Either there is less money available to fund law enforcement as it’s siphoned off to provide services previously funded by the state, or the disadvantaged resort to anti social behavior which increases the demand for police services. The recent threat to hold back state sales tax revenue sharing had many communities once again contemplating lay offs, wage freezes and concessions. An initiative to locally fund the teacher’s retirement system (HB134) would have a devastating impact upon local governments as school districts would be forced to raise taxes in competition with local governments. HB298 would allow local governments to declare bankruptcy and get out from under pension obligations and contractual agreements.
A Glimmer of Hope
There are some positive pieces of legislation introduced this year and we are following them with the same vigor as those listed above. HB154 would limit parole for individuals who batter a police officer.
HB350 and HB3257 addresses concealed carry for Correctional Officers. HB2500 would broaden benefits under the State Employees Retirement System, Tier II. HB4005 is a FOP bill for university police on disability affording them the same benefits as down state police officer. HB2748 would expand coverage on pre existing conditions related to workers compensation. HB3280 creates the Public Safety Officer Protection Act that financially protects officers charged criminally as a result of their employment. HB1380 is designed to encourage compliance with arbitration awards by imposing monetary penalties. HB1552 creates the offense of tampering with police equipment. HB3554 requires that shifts be posted two weeks in advance. HB 3613 would create a loan program for the purchase of police vehicles. HB4104 sets targeted staffing for DNR Conservation Police. HB2658 allows retired State Troopers to purchase their duty weapon. HJR1Creates the Emergency Responder Roadway Safety Task Force and HJR2 and 21 designates Memorial Overpasses for deceased Illinois State Troopers James Sauter and Bernard Skeeters. HB3494 creates a lotto scratch off game to support police memorials. SB1622, 1623 1624 would make Court Security Officers eligible for line of duty death benefits and SB1941 would provide line of duty death benefits in cases where officers tragically self inflict wounds causing their death. As with many of the reform bills, many of the pro law enforcement initiatives will also have some tough hurdles to overcome.
The Illinois General Assembly is back in session as of April 14th. Up until now, there has mostly been posturing on the various bills listed above. As the session heats up, so will our activity in Springfield and we will get the word out as needed when your input will be imperative to either advance a bill or try to defeat it. Realistically, we are aware that some reform issues will have a great deal of momentum and therefore we will be demanding reasonable implementations. If you wish to follow any of the bills listed above, visit http://www.ilga.gov/ . Follow the FOP Labor Council on Facebook as well as the Illinois FOP State Lodge Facebook and routinely check our web sites for updates. ILFOPLabor Council and ILFOP State Lodge.
About The Author: Keith Turney has been a Field Representative with the Illinois Fraternal Order of Police Labor Council for the last six years and is the current Second Vice President with the Illinois Fraternal Order of Police State Lodge where he chair’s the State Lodge’s Legislative Committee. Keith retired at the rank of Commander from the Joliet Police Department in March of 2009 with nearly thirty-one (31) years of dedicated service to his community. For the first fifteen (15) years of his career as a police officer, Keith was extremely active in the police labor movement holding various leadership positions within the Joliet Police Union and Joliet FOP Lodge #58. Keith holds certificates in Labor Relations from the University of Illinois at Urbana, as well as a Master’s Degree in Organizational Leadership and a Bachelor of Science Degree in Criminal Justice from Lewis University.