New bill causes strong reactions from student organizations, police, lawmakers

A nearly 800-page bill that includes major changes to police accountability measures, usage of military equipment, court reforms, police licensure and prisoner rights has stirred up strong opinions in and out of law enforcement in Edwardsville.

The bill, which passed on Jan. 13, will now go to Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s office before being put into effect. The bill has gained the approval of the College Democrats of SIUE, who believe this bill could put forth a new standard for Illinois police officers.

“I think that when we look at policing and we see instances, especially like the George Floyd incident, that was an overuse of force, and I think that’s not an isolated incident,” Ian Kern, Vice President of College Democrats of SIUE of Belleville, Illinois, said. “You can look around anywhere in America and you’ll find instances of overuse of force [by police].”

Other members of government disagree. State Rep. Charlie Meier (R-Okawville) said the bill goes too far in certain areas.

“We have bad cops. We have bad people everywhere, but this bill — I think — is just too far reaching. I’m not happy with there being no bail. I’m not happy with the anonymous complaints. I don’t complain about body cameras, but where’s the revenue to get them all at once?” Meier said.

The bill includes a section on police accountability measures. Some of the new measures would require all police officers to be equipped with body cameras by the beginning of 2025, restrict the use of chokeholds, expand police training with usage of force and first aid and expand the officer misconduct database.

Edwardsville Police Chief Jay Keeven said he has reservations about the inclusion of these measures due to the inconvenience they may cause officers.

“Under [the Freedom of Information Act] you have a right to see video camera footage … If someone wanted a copy of that, we can’t give them your date of birth, we can’t give them your driver’s licence number, so someone has to go through all of that video and audio and take that information out, and that is a real time process,” Keeven said. 

Despite his reservations, Keeven said he and other officers in the department are in support of the cameras.

“I’d venture to say that 90 percent of my officers, given the opportunity to have a body camera, they want body cameras,” Keeven said. “We’re just going to have to figure out how we’re going to pay for the storage and redaction.”

The misdemeanor misconduct database includes the decertification of police officers who have been convicted of criminal sexual abuse, prostitution, solicitation to meet a child, evidence interference and more

Community Outreach Chair of College Democrats of SIUE Evan Senat said she believes parts of the bill should already have been requirements for police officers. 

“This list is definitely justified. Any police person that is involved in any of these actions is obviously crooked,” Senat said. “Some of the listings are pimping, prostitution, sexual exploitation of a child. Any civilian would be charged with those actions, why won’t policemen be?”

The banning of certain military equipment has a section in the bill as well, this includes purchasing and using tracked armored vehicles, weaponized aircraft, vessels or vehicles, firearms and ammunition of certain calibers, grenade launchers and bayonets. 

“I understand [the need for] law and order, protecting people is a very important job and I don’t think any Democrat, let alone any Democrat at SIUE is disagreeing with that,” Kern said. “I think that where people find the line is overkill. You don’t need a gun that’s designed to take out an elephant.”

Some have complained that the bill was rushed. According to Meier the bill was still being written soon before it was voted on, and no committee hearings were ever held on it.

“It went through with no committee hearings. It was still changing the night before we voted, at three in the morning … If they were going to move it all year long, why couldn’t they have finished it up before Christmas, so we could have had some hearing on the final bill the way it was written?” Meier said. “It was just wrong — the way it was done.”

Illinois Sen. Christopher Belt (D-Centreville), a supporter of the bill, disagreed with the claims.

“I don’t think it was rushed. This whole initiative was started after George Floyd’s murder, it started after Breonna Taylor’s murder came up … In September we started having subject matter hearings. For the criminal justice pillar there were 9 subject matter hearings, 30 hours of testimony,” Belt said.

Belt said opinion on the bill doesn’t have to be two-sided.

“I would say this should not be an either-or proposition. You either support the police, so you can’t support the legislation, or if you support the legislation you cannot support the police. It shouldn’t be either or. It should be ‘and.’ You can do both,” Belt said.

For more information, go to the Illinois General Assembly website for a full text of HB 3653.

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