By Craig Hastings
With just a little less than 120 days before the Illinois Safe-T-Act goes into effect January 1, 2023, only in the past week have the people of Illinois started to get concerned. FOX NEWS and several other conservative national media outlets have recently brought to the forefront the ridiculous changes made to the cash bail laws in Illinois. Law enforcement agencies across the state have been expressing their concerns for over a year how dangerous this legislation could be for the citizens in Illinois. The first phase of this bill went into effect last July. This was when there was a mass exodus of Illinois police officers from city and county agencies throughout the state. Most police departments including ours have yet to recover from a shortage of police officers. Even before this legislation went into effect last July, our department hasn’t been able to maintain a full staff of just seven full time police officers for nearly four years. Now with so many police officers retiring early, switching careers, and mostly young people not interested in a career in law enforcement anymore, competition for police officers is intense.
This very legislation is one of the main reasons we can’t find good candidates interested in a career in law enforcement. Because there is such a shortage of police officers in Illinois the larger departments are luring our officers away with much better pay and benefits. If you read the entire legislation in the Illinois Safe-T-Act you will better understand why police officers are trying to find a way out of law enforcement. Our hands are being tied so tight that it is becoming difficult to help the people crying out for our help. I don’t think until this legislation started getting national media attention that the citizens in Illinois realized or even cared to know how bad this legislation is for them as citizens living here. This legislation wasn’t just about taking power away from police and punishing police for every little in the field, split second decision, they get wrong.
I assume because the majority of citizens that have little or no connection to law enforcement activities, they don’t realize the importance of suspects being required to post bond to get out of jail before they are able to go before a judge. Just the idea of having to post cash bail to get out of jail is a huge deterrent for offenders not to commit crimes. So many of these crimes are committed in a moment of anger or anxiety. The thought of spending a day or two in jail is enough for cooler heads to prevail and therefore some crimes are never committed. But come January 1, 2023 all of this will change dramatically. Not only will having to post bond go away for most crimes, but also some offenses that we would normally arrest a suspect and transport them to jail, we will no longer be allowed to do. So for instance, should your neighbor be having a loud party until 3:00 a.m. and you call and wish to file a complaint, we will only be allowed to notify your neighbor of your intentions. If your neighbor wants to continue on with their loud and obnoxious party for another two or three hours they’ll be able to do so because we can’t take them to jail. As the bill reads today, if someone sets your tool shed on fire and you call us, sure we will show up and arrest the suspect, however they won’t be held pending posting bond. No, that person will be set free an hour or so later and if they choose to show up on your property to admire their work, don’t call because we won’t be able to help you. It’ll be up to you to stand guard over your own property to make sure it’s not your house that’s burning next. Sure, if you’re in your house and it’s set on fire while it’s occupied, then we can probably hold that suspect pending a bond hearing.
People! This is the most outrageous legislation you could pray for that would never be passed! Stop thinking this legislation is getting back somehow at the less than 1% of bad police officers in Illinois because it’s not. Just the opposite is happening here. This legislation encourages police officers to not do their jobs for fear of being sued or prosecuted for making a wrong decision while on the job. The whole idea of not requiring cash bail for most all offenses will only harm the victims of all crimes. This isn’t going to harm the police. This will harm you. So the argument coming out of Cook County where all of this nonsense started was that poor or less financially able suspects are unfairly held longer in jail waiting on a bond hearing than those in a better financial position to bond out. How about this; how about none of you tempted to commit a crime in the first place just don’t do it so you don’t have to worry about posting bond! That’s right! Follow the law and stay out of jail in the first place. Would this simple logic be too much to contemplate before committing senseless crimes in the first place? No crime, no bond. Simple.
(The views and opinions expressed in the submitted columns are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the position of The Journal.)