Despite ruling, portions of SAFE-T act will enact in Illinois on Jan. 1

Published: Dec. 30, 2022 at 5:53 PM CST
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ROCKFORD, Ill. (WIFR) - When the clock strikes midnight on Sunday morning, portions of the SAFE-T Act will go into effect despite a judge’s ruling in Kankakee County regarding the elimination of cash bail.

Sheriff Steve Stovall, newly elected to Stephenson County, says the implementation of this SAFE-T Act will be a learning curve for law enforcement around the state. Officers are training, but what’s not known is what works and what doesn’t.

“We’re ready either way, whether the entire SAFE-T act goes through, whether it doesn’t go through, we’re ready to continue with the public service that we provide,” Stovall told 23 News.

The new act will usher in a wave of police reforms, like amending the Use of Force policies to ban chokeholds. Sheriff Stovall says his officers are ready to go, except in one area, body cameras.

“We know that they’re a good thing, it’s just always the money. The money’s gonna be the tough thing to make sure that we get the body cameras and the storage for the body cameras for the footage that we get,” he said.

The act also requires law enforcement to have fully operational body cameras by 2025.

“We’re not avoiding that, we just have to put a plan together of how we’re gonna spend the money to get those items, to make sure our equipment is good, make sure it’s reliable and it meets all the standards,” said Stovall.

Illinois will also see reforms to sentencing guidelines. For instance, a person can’t be charged with first-degree murder unless they are the ones who caused the death, and some drug offenses can now be treated as misdemeanors. The act also creates grants to help fund public defenders with increased caseloads. However, Winnebago County Public Defender Nick Zimmerman says money won’t fix the staffing problem.

“I think it would help yes but really the reality is money is generally speaking not our biggest impediment right now, our biggest impediment is that there’s not enough attorneys,” Zimmerman said.

Stephenson County won’t move forward with cash bail for now, but Stovall thinks that’s a good thing. If anything goes wrong in its implementation, he says his county will be able to learn from the mistakes of others.

Other changes in Illinois include increased support for pregnant prisoners and increased funding for local law enforcement to adopt a co-responder where other first responders or mental health professionals accompany law enforcement.

On Friday afternoon Illinois Attorney General Kwame Raoul filed an appeal with the Illinois Supreme Court, seeking to overturn the ruling in Kankakee County.