ILLINOIS (IRN) — Legal principles that protect government officials such as police officers from liability for certain actions while on duty will be front and center during an Illinois task force hearing Wednesday.
The Illinois Criminal Justice Information Authority Illinois Constitutional Rights and Remedies Task Force is an offshoot of a sweeping police regulation bill known as the SAFE-T Act that lawmakers passed in January.
The task force meets virtually Wednesday afternoon.
Members are set to vote on recommendations to report to the full legislature.
“Qualified immunity and other statutory blanket protections for police has harmed communities, deprived victims of police misconduct relief, and also has failed every single police officer who serves the public professionally, dutifully, and constitutionally, yet cannot gain the public’s trust due to the unconstitutional actions of a small number of unaccountable police,” the ACLU of Illinois said in a memo to the task force.
Qualified immunity has “deprived victims of police misconduct relief, and also has failed every single police officer who serves the public professionally, dutifully, and constitutionally, yet cannot gain the public’s trust due to the unconstitutional actions of a small number of unaccountable police,” The ACLU said.
Illinois Sheriffs’ Association Executive Director Jim Kaitschuk said getting rid of qualified immunity will hinder police recruitment. He said police can already be held accountable, even with qualified immunity in place.
“And that’s to give them the ability to make decisions and do things that are in the best interest unless they are aware that they are absolutely violating somebody’s constitutional rights,” Kaitschuk told WMAY.
The ACLU urged the task force to recommend passage of House Bill 1727, known as the “Bad Apples Act” as a “first step towards incentivizing police to conform their behavior to constitutional standards.”
Kaitschuk said the bill is a bad idea.
“Because I think this will create all kinds of frivolous litigation across the board,” Kaitschuk said. “And I think that it’s going to further jeopardize or impact our ability to recruit good officers to come back and to get good officers to stick around.”
On behalf of the Illinois Association of Chiefs of Police, Highland City Manager Chris Conrad shared concerns in a memo sent to the task force.
“Fewer candidates are applying, and a significant number of those possess less education and are less qualified than applicants in the past,” Conrad said. “Illinois municipal leaders also expressed concern about the increases in costs of maintaining police departments due to the numerous unfunded mandates implemented through the reform legislation.”
Craig Futterman with the University of Chicago Law School encouraged passage of the Bad Apples Act.
“[T]his legislation would promote trust between community members and police officers, which in turn improves officer effectiveness in protecting public safety throughout Illinois,” Futterman wrote in a memo to the task force. ”Illinois residents should have redress when their most fundamental rights are violated.”
Tamara Cummings with the Illinois Fraternal Order of Police said in a memo the SAFE-T Act addressed concerns of training and “any changes to qualified immunity at this time would not only be premature … We recommend that no changes be made to qualified immunity that we instead focus on monitoring the progress of the legislation.”