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Hours after Bond County became the first county to encourage Illinois Gov. JB Pritzker not to sign the crime reform bill sitting on his desk, Fayette County did the same.
The county unanimously passed a resolution in which it states how passage of that bill will negatively impact law enforcement and also how such a bill should be drafted.
Board member Matt Hall, who read the resolution prior to its passage, and fellow board member Larry Emerick came up with the idea of drafting such a resolution as a way of speaking out against House Bill 3563.
The resolution reads:
Whereas, the Fayette County Board, being elected by the people of Fayette County and being duly sworn by their oath of office to uphold the Constitution of the United States and the Constitution of the State of Illinois; and
Whereas, the Fayette County Board declares its opposition to the House Bill 3563 and urges the governor to veto the bill; and
Whereas, the House Bill 3563 causes Fayette County law enforcement undue risk to their employment and livelihood; and
Whereas, given the House Bill 3563 potential impact on law enforcement it will have a devastating effect on the ability of Fayette County police officers to keep Fayette County safe
Now, therefore be it resolved that the County Board of Fayette County, Illinois, declares their opposition to House Bill 3563 for the welfare of Fayette County.
The Fayette County Board requests the Governor Veto House Bill 3563. Legislation for police reform should be created along with law enforcement agencies in the future to ensure the productive reform.
During the board’s finance committee meeting, Dustin Harmon of Bellwether, the county’s administrative assistant, spoke about one aspect of the crime reform bill – not requiring arrestees to post cash bail.
The main impact of that, Harmon said, is that bail is applied to fines and fees upon the conclusion of an individual’s criminal case.
“We’re fully reliant on those monies that were previously held going into the system for collections,” Harmon said.
He said that the amount collected monthly for bail is $36,196, or $434,322 annualized.
“So, this is a significant chunk,” he said. “So, now, that money that’s in our door is no longer going to be there through the removal of cash bail.”
Passage of the bill, Harmon said, would result in the county losing approximately $275,000 a year.
After Sheriff Chris Smith gave his monthly report, Hall asked Smith to state his opinions on the bill.
“It’s a sad thing what happened, how it got shoved through in the middle of the night,” Smith said, talking about how quickly that bill of about 700 pages moved through the House and Senate.
He said that, thankfully, one of the major points removed from the original bill was unqualified immunity, meaning that a police officer could face disciplinary action based on an anonymous complaint.
Smith said that if unqualified immunity had remained in the bill, “You would have lost me that day, you would have lost (Chief Deputy) Chris Palmer, you would have lost Ted Koonce, your jail administrator, because that’s the one protection we’ve got of our personal assets.
“They have been through, and I hope the governor is really taking a hard look at this,” he said.
“We hope that he vetoes it and they go back and meet the sheriffs’ association, the FOP (Fraternal Order of Police), the (police) chiefs’ Association, and take a strong look if you want criminal justice reform.
“Everybody has to be involved – it’s not just a Chicago problem, it’s the entire state of what goes on,” Smith said.
“You know that bills get passed by what goes on in Chicago.
“There are 700,000 great police officers everyday doing their job, and we shouldn’t condemn the entire nation over a few bad apples,” he said.
Smith said that he does like the part of the bill requiring officers to wear body cams, something his department has been doing for some time.
“We were them, and it has stopped incidents like you wouldn’t believe,” he said.
But, Hall pointed out, if the House bill is signed, officers wearing body cams would not be able to view the video footage from them as they prepare their incident reports.
That, Smith said, could lead to defense attorneys being able to trip them up over specifics of an incident while testifying in a criminal case.
“But the justice (system) overhaul needs a lot more work and a lot of more time spent on it,” Smith said.