“No man’s life, liberty or property are safe while the Legislature is in session,” American lawyer, politician and newspaper editor Gideon T. Tucker wrote in 1866.
How could the Honorable Mr. Tucker have known about 21st-century Illinois way back then?
Most of that state’s SAFE-T Act went into effect on Sunday, putting new constraints on law enforcement and giving new freedom to criminals.
Thankfully, a last-minute ruling Saturday by the Illinois Supreme Court suspended one of the worst aspects of the new law: elimination of cash bail, similar to what has occurred in New York state.
But it’s still a bad law, described by one of its opponents as the “most dangerous” he’s ever seen.
And Democratic Illinois Speaker of the House Emanuel “Chris” Welch has been aggressively pushing it, despite protests by Republicans of the 750-page bill crammed through both the state House and Senate in three days, according to WLS-TV in Chicago.
Like so many things put forth by politicians, the name of the law is false. SAFE-T stands for “Safety, Accountability, Fairness, and Equity-Today.”
But SAFE-T is not safe.
The law, as written, undermines accountability, it is not fair to the citizens of Illinois, and if you understand the leftist code word “equity,” you know it is seeking equal outcomes for groups in the criminal justice system, not equal justice for individuals under the law.
The “Today” in SAFE-T is OK, I guess. But then again, from today on, Illinois might be wishing for yesterday. And if the jettison of cash bail is enacted, things will get worse.
Law enforcement officials breathed a sigh of relief following the state Supreme Court ruling that kept the prohibition on holding criminal suspects on bail from going into effect.
“We’ve spent a lot of time trying to prepare for what’s coming,” Franklin County Sheriff Kyle Bacon told Fox News.
“Trying to sift through a thousand pages to determine where our role is and what’s going to change and how we can best serve the citizens that we protect has been first and foremost for us,” Bacon said.
“My focus has been to ensure that the people that commit certain crimes, that they can remain in jail. We work very hard to provide the best services we can, and sometimes we feel we’re paddling upstream.”
Concern about the law has been building for months. In an October interview, Orland Park Mayor Keith Pekau told Fox, “When I said that this is the most dangerous law I’ve ever seen, I believe that.”
The weekend state Supreme Court ruling was in response to a lawsuit filed by prosecutors and sheriffs from around the state saying pretrial release and bail aspects of the SAFE-T Act were unconstitutional.
According to Fox News, one of those who joined the lawsuit, Kankakee County State Attorney Jim Rowe, said in a statement Saturday: “Today’s ruling affirms that we are still a government of the people and that the Constitutional protections afforded to the citizens of Illinois – most importantly the right to exercise our voice with our vote – are inalienable.”
Besides the now-suspended abolishment of cash bail, the law prohibits risk assessment from being the “sole basis for a detention decision” and changes criteria for release before trial.
In policing, the law imposes new regulations on the use of force, prohibits local law enforcement agencies from accessing surplus military equipment and requires more police training in “crisis intervention, de-escalation, use of force, and high-risk traffic stops.”
It also requires training in “racial and ethnic sensitivity” and in “implicit bias,” according to the ICJIA.
(Implicit bias training has demonstrated questionable statistical validity and reliability, Calvin Lai, research director of Project Implicit, told Business Insider.)
The SAFE-T Act calls for a public database of law enforcement officers who lose their professional certification for misconduct and empowers the state attorney general to take action against police departments showing “a pattern” of civil rights violations, according to the ICJIA.
The law also reduces police discretion by requiring officers in some situations, such as nonviolent trespassing, to issue citations rather than make arrests.
Bacon, however, said, “If someone’s trespassing on your property, we’re going to remove them from your property. Maybe we can’t arrest them, maybe we can’t place them in the county jail, but we’re not going to leave them there.”
He said his agency will abide by the new law, exercising “common sense and discretion.”
Maybe state lawmakers in the “Land of Lincoln” could have benefited from paying attention to the experience of another Democratic-dominated state, which passed its own, disastrous criminal justice “reforms” three years ago.
In New York state, there would be “301 more New Yorkers alive today and 1,900 fewer shootings” if the city’s 2020 and 2021 crime rates were the same as 2019, but for “bail reform,” Jim Quinn, a 42-year prosecutor wrote for the New York Post in a January 2022 commentary piece.
“Our politicians have simply been ignoring what’s been happening on the street,” Quinn wrote. “It’s as if all the additional crime victims are acceptable collateral damage of their progressive agenda.
“When do victims get factored into the debate over bail reform?” he asked.
So, Illinois lawmakers had an example of how their “reforms” could work out, but they’ve evidently chosen to ignore it. Or, even worse, Democrats are simply deliberately sabotaging the country.
For his part, Illinois House Speaker Welch had, prior to the recent election, this description of Republicans who want to repeal the law:
“They want to repeal a whole lot more than the safety net,” he said, according to WLS.
“They want to repeal women’s rights. They want to repeal labor rights. They want to repeal civil rights like marriage equality. They want to repeal every right we’ve earned in this country.”
Nice talking points, Mr. Speaker.
But what about victims’ rights? Don’t they have rights, too?