A controversial criminal justice reform bill officially took effect on Sunday, with the exception of a key provision put on hold by a court at the last minute, that will make significant changes to how law enforcement handles crimes in the state.
Illinois’ Safety, Accountability, Fairness and Equity-Today (SAFE-T) Act took effect on Sunday although a key part of the bill, which eliminates cash bail in the state, was halted when the Illinois Supreme Court issued a stay at the last minute on Saturday evening in order to “maintain consistent pretrial procedures throughout Illinois.”
The bill’s other provisions that took effect Sunday, like limiting when defendants can be deemed flight risks, allowing defendants under electronic monitoring to leave home for 48 hours before they can be charged with escape, and preventing police from arresting non-violent trespassers have been widely criticized by politicians and commentators on both sides of the political spectrum.
Critics say that the new measures will handcuff police and increase crime by releasing criminals with tickets rather than arresting them for certain crimes.
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“When I said that this is the most dangerous law I’ve ever seen, I believe that,” Orland Park Mayor Keith Pekau told Fox News.
Franklin County Sheriff Kyle Bacon told Fox News that from what he can tell of the SAFE-T act, “there’s not a drug offense other than one involving a firearm or a high-level drug offense that is detainable.”
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As a result, he fears that not only will the high volume of these crimes continue, but low-level criminals abusing drugs may also not receive opportunities to get clean if they’re released immediately after being arrested.
“It’s a snowball effect if the drug issue leads to these deaths and burglaries that we experience,” Bacon said. “They are a struggle for rural departments to keep up with.”
“Simply booking someone and sending them out before they’re even sober, I don’t see a great benefit,” he told Fox News. “I hope I’m wrong, but it’s concerning.”
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The new law also allows for anonymous misconduct complaints against police officers when in the past officers were able to know the identity of the person accusing them.
“It’s opening the door for the anti-police activist community and the attorneys that represent them that are anti-police,” retired Chicago Police Department Chief of Detectives Eugene Roy told Fox News Digital earlier this year.
“The problem that nobody sees or turns a blind eye to is the effect on morale, recruiting and retention,” Roy said. “Anybody can just make a complaint against an officer. The department or the investigating body does not have to tell the officer who it is, which hinders their ability to respond to the complaint accurately and honestly. It has a bad effect on morale.”
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The SAFE-T Act will also require all police officers in the state to wear body cameras by January 1, 2025. Currently, only 10% of law enforcement agencies in the state are equipped with body cameras, WTVO-TV reported.
Another part of the legislation, Roy told Fox News Digital, prevents officers from accused in a use-of-force incident from reviewing his or her body camera footage before giving a statement. Officers can now amend their statements after viewing the footage, but that, Roy notes, makes two reports — a situation Roy says is “ideal” for attorneys looking to cast doubt on the story of an officer who may not have accurately reported every detail simply from memory in the first report.
“In criminal or civil cases arising from arrests, this bill is great for defense attorneys and for lawyers who like to sue the police,” Roy said.
Chicago Alderman Anthony Napolitano, who represents the city’s 41st Ward and served as both a Chicago police officer and firefighter, told Fox News Digital earlier this year that his constituents are “beside themselves” over the “horses—” bill” and that he agrees with Roy that the bill will further downgrade police morale by eliminating cash bail, which is now on hold pending a future court decision, and releasing criminals back onto the streets with just citations.
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“It’s just completely wrong in the direction we are going with crime and punishment,” Napolitano said. “The Safe-T Act basically says if you commit a crime you get a strike two, a strike three, a strike four, a strike five, it’s just the wrong way to go about it.”
Fox News’ Teny Sahakian contributed to this report