Legislation backed by Attorney General Raoul would reform police certification
Illinois Attorney General Kwame Raoul, shown here in this October 2019 file photo, supports a bill that would make it easier for police to lose their certification if they are found to have engaged in misconduct. (Capitol News Illinois file photo)
Bill makes it easier to decertify officers, increases communication between government agencies
By RAYMON TRONCOSO
Capitol News Illinois
SPRINGFIELD – A new bill backed by Illinois Attorney General Kwame Raoul would revamp the way police certification works in Illinois.
The bill, sponsored by Sen. Elgie Sims and Rep. Justin Slaughter, both Chicago Democrats, alters the Illinois Administrative Code as it relates to the Illinois Law Enforcement Training and Standards Board.
An amendment to House Bill 841 filed Friday would create the Illinois Law Enforcement Certification Review Panel to conduct oversight of officers found to have engaged in misconduct, create a mandatory reporting system for officer training compliance and increase transparency surrounding the conduct of individual officers.
“Now, more than ever, meaningful law enforcement reform is essential to restore the public’s trust in law enforcement and to hold officers accountable for egregious misconduct that should render them unworthy of being a police officer anywhere in the state,” Raoul said in a statement released Friday.
ILETSB handles the certification of officers in Illinois, including the standards an officer must meet, and establishes the trainings they must complete in order to achieve certification. Under current Illinois law, an officer must be convicted of a felony, or a “decertifiable misdemeanor” such as offering a bribe or criminal sexual abuse in order to lose their certification.
Under the proposal, ILETSB would be granted greater discretionary power to decertify officers based on the determinations of the Certification Review Panel. Officers found to have committed an act that would be a felony or misdemeanor, even if not convicted or charged, would also be subject to decertification.
Additional offenses that could result in decertification would also be included: excessive use of force; failing to intervene when another officer uses excessive force; tampering with dash or body cameras, including the footage created by these cameras or directing others to do so; committing perjury, making false statements or tampering with evidence; and engaging in conduct of “moral turpitude,” which would be defined as any action that goes against the responsibility to protect the public or an action that sullies the integrity of law enforcement.
Government agencies would be prohibited from granting status as law enforcement to anyone without an active certification from ILETSB, with an exception granted to elected law enforcement officials such as sheriffs.
HB841 also makes it mandatory that law enforcement officers report to ILETSB in three-year periods that they are in compliance with minimum standards for certification, including all training requirements for that year, employment by a law enforcement agency and no disciplinary action taken against them for misconduct that would result in decertification.
ILETSB would also maintain databases of certification and misconduct for all officers in the state. The Professional Conduct database would be available to governmental agencies, law enforcement and state’s attorneys containing an officer’s certification history, reported instances of misconduct, suspensions and terminations. Agencies looking to hire officers would be required to view their entry in the conduct database before employment is offered.
Two separate databases wouldl be available for the public to view – one containing an officer’s agency, their certification status and confirmed instances of decertifiable misconduct, and another public database of all completed investigations against law enforcement officers, although any identifying information of the officer will be redacted.
Since July, Raoul has been engaged in a working group that involves lawmakers, state agencies, the governor’s office and law enforcement to help craft the certification standards in HB841
The bill is a part of the Legislative Black Caucus agenda to reform police and criminal justice system, which is backed by AG Raoul. However, it was filed separately from the criminal justice omnibus reform bill currently making its way through the General Assembly’s special lame duck session as a part of the Black Caucus agenda. That legislation, an amendment to House Bill 163, faces strong opposition from law enforcement groups in the state.
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