Senate Republicans introduce package to combat crime, support police
SPRINGFIELD (WGEM) - Illinois Senate Republicans announced a slate of proposals Tuesday that aim to stop the rise in violent crimes and bring support to law enforcement they claim was taken away by the passage of the SAFE-T Act last session, calling it an “anti-police” bill.
The measures were proposed in response to the SAFE-T act, which was passed in the early hours during session last year. The act is known mostly for ending cash bail in Illinois. Though that part of the law hasn’t been enacted yet, the Senate GOP said the end of cash bail could lead to an uptick in crime.
“Last January, the Democrats pushed through sweeping changes to our criminal justice system,” Sen. Terri Bryant (R-Murphysboro) said. “They pushed through those changes in the middle of the night, without public or law enforcement input.”
Chicago Democrat and Black Caucus member Sen. Elgie Sims said he is proud of his work on the SAFE-T act. He argues Republicans are “playing politics” instead of focusing on public safety and shaping public policy.
“Even when law enforcement officers have come to the table and supported the efforts we’ve taken to address public safety, they’ve still voted no by and large,” Sims said. “That shows you they’re not interested in improving public safety, they’re interested in politics.”
Sims attributes lack of support from sheriffs to the fact that 70 percent of elected sheriffs in Illinois are Republicans.
There is no filed bill for the proposals yet. Republican Spokesperson Ellie Leonard said the party is waiting to see which bills emerge from committee. From there, the party will amend a technical bill to include the proposals, a tactic often used by both parties to move controversial legislation.
“Look, we’re not saying that we have all the answers to stop crime in its entirety,” Senate Minority Leader Dan McConchie (R-Hawthorn Woods) said. “We are saying we have good ideas, ideas that are derived from the law enforcement community itself.”
The list of proposals includes several “tough on crime” measures, such as giving those convicted of gun-related crimes a 10 years-to-life sentence. Additionally, it would enforce that those who are convicted of aggravated battery against a police officer serve at least 85 percent of their sentence.
Crime is on the forefront of issues this election cycle. Senate Republicans are not the first in their party to focus on violent crime. Senator and gubernatorial candidate Darren Bailey (R-Xenia), who was present but did not speak, recently filed a bill reinstating the death penalty for those convicted of killing police. Other Republican gubernatorial candidates have released campaign ads focusing on crime.
The crimes that would receive 10 years-to-life in prison are related to gun violence and violent car jackings, two issues that have become prevalent across the state.
For juvenile offenders, their proposals would reinstate that all children arrested for aggravated vehicular carjacking or armed robbery with a weapon be tried as adults.
“These measures are necessary to not only give law enforcement the tools they need, but also to send a clear message,” Sen. Sue Rezin (R-Morris) said. “Go after our police and there will be consequences.”
Republicans also cited police leaving the force as a reason for their package. They say retirements are up, recruitments are down, and some officers are leaving for other places.
“I felt like we had nobody that’s got our back,” Christian County Sheriff Bruce Kettlecamp said of the SAFE-T act. “We need tools to do our job. We took that oath to protect and serve and by what they did at three o’clock in the morning, it makes our job very difficult.”
Part of the proposal would ask that $125 million in grants be directed to hiring, rehiring and training of law enforcement. It would also fund body camera, mandated training, and equipment.
Several officers have died in the line of duty due to gun violence in the past year, most recently in Champaign and Wayne counties.
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