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Policing in Illinois could drastically change if this house bill passes in the next week

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Saturday, January 9, 2021  |  Article  |  WQAD-TV - Quad Cities

Crime (28) , Legal System (27) , Police (28)

The bill must be passed by January 13th

MORRIS, Ill. — The Illinois state legislature will be in its lame-duck period for the next six days. In that time, they'll look at house bill 163. It’s a proposal that would end qualified immunity for police and eliminate cash bail.

Its drawing heavy debate and facing opposition from law enforcement. Whiteside County Sheriff John Booker knows that law enforcement is in need of some change. He says that it comes down to funding. “A lot comes down to money and if the state of Illinois isn't willing to provide money for this stuff they can’t give us all these mandates and just say well good luck trying.”

Republican state representative Tony McCombie echoing Booker. “There’s a requirement for additional training which I can get behind 150% but then there’s no funding to help with that.”

The Illinois legislature will look at a bill in the next six days that could drastically change policing in Illinois if it passes. It’s bill 163. Sheriff Booker says he’s upset that law enforcement didn’t get a say in it. “It can’t just be a one-sided thing, it needs to be a combined effort to get the outcome that is best for everyone.”

Among the changes is the elimination of qualified immunity. It’s what protects officers from being held personally liable for constitutional violations.

Thurgood Brooks started The Resolution, a group working to help reform law enforcement. He says incidents that require qualified immunity should hardly happen, and when they do, officers need to be held accountable. “What we need to understand is that if you are in such a job you cannot have an oops incidents and not be held accountable on a regular basis simply because you meant to do something different.”

As for coming up with funding, Brooks argues the answer might be right in front of departments. “Look at our budget and say hey what can we do to be better? What can we do? If that means we have to take some of our budget and invest in mental health services that makes the community safer.”

Both sides agreeing on change, leaving the question of how to get there.