Crime surge, police exodus put Illinois criminal justice reforms in crosshairs

Crime surge, police exodus put Illinois criminal justice reforms in crosshairs

Eliminating cash bail and regulating police officers were parts of Illinois’ SAFE-T Act that some lawmakers blame for a rise in crime and loss of police officers. Republican state lawmakers want it repealed, while Democrats say it just needs tweaks.

Some Illinois lawmakers are pushing to repeal the SAFE-T Act, contending it’s played a role in Illinois’s spike in crime and a loss of police officers.

“Illinois has become the wild, wild Midwest,” said Republican House leader Jim Durkin, R-Western Springs.

Law enforcement groups originally warned the SAFE-T Act would be a public safety risk. It passed just over a year ago and eliminated cash bail, gave inmates more rights, changed guidelines for police use of deadly force and created a licensing system for police. 

A new bill filed Jan. 13 repeals the act. Democrats said repeal isn’t wise because the law hasn’t taken full effect yet, but they are open to changes. 

“It is not productive to be against a certain piece of legislation, but rather to express what you would support as a solution to these problems,” state Sen. Dave Koehler, D-Peoria wrote in a statement. 

Rep. Ryan Spain, R-Peoria, said half of Illinois’ counties are experiencing a shortage in sheriff’s departments that he tied to the act.  

Meanwhile, Fort Lauderdale, Florida, has spent $60,000 on a billboard along a Chicago expressway luring Chicago cops to a warmer work environment. In the past three months, 42 Chicago officers have applied to work in the Fort Lauderdale police department. For young officers, the opportunity is too tempting to turn down. 

“I’m only 24, no wife, no kids” said Sean Jaycox, a third-generation Chicago officer who now works in Fort Lauderdale. “If there was a time to go and pursue something else, that was the time. It’s a little better quality of life” he said. 

Since January 2021, 1,100 CPD officers have either retired or transferred. It’s partially because of a new state law allowing Chicago officers to transfer up to five years of service to a suburban pension system. 

Whether the SAFE-T Act is repealed or tweaked, there are lawmakers on both sides of the aisle agreeing it needs to be revisited. 

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