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  • Raoul: Chicago police accountability task force major step toward systemic changeCHICAGO — State Senator Kwame Raoul (D-Chicago 13th) issued the following statement on the dismissal of police superintendent Garry McCarthy and the City of Chicago’s appointment of a task force on police accountability:

    Yesterday’s announcements represent a positive step out of a dark time in our city. While no individual is solely responsible for the crisis of public confidence that has converged on the murder of Laquan McDonald and the culture of inaction and obfuscation that hid it from public view for more than a year, Superintendent McCarthy’s departure is a necessary step. It sends a signal of seriousness. But just as replacing a head coach does not automatically correct deeper weaknesses within a team, new leadership will not necessarily bring about the systemic change desperately needed in Chicago’s law enforcement and criminal justice apparatus.

    That’s why I’m encouraged by the appointment of a police accountability task force made up of individuals with the integrity and experience to move beyond platitudes to real reform.

    The choice of Deval Patrick, who was raised on the South Side, headed the civil rights division of the Department of Justice and served two terms as governor of Massachusetts, to advise the task force is a wise one. I’m optimistic that he will bring to the endeavor outside eyes but also a deep love for this city.

    Inspector General Joe Ferguson, former State Police director Hiram Grau, Chicago Police Board President Lori Lightfoot, University of Chicago law professor and former Cook County public defender Randolph Stone and former federal prosecutor Sergio Acosta will round out the group, lending valuable experience and insight to the critical task of restoring public trust in the police. To move that process forward, they must determine patterns and practices that need to be overhauled. And our city’s leadership must exercise the will to follow their counsel.

    I also stand behind Attorney General Lisa Madigan’s decision to ask the U.S. Department of Justice to undertake a civil rights investigation of the Chicago Police Department. Rep. Elgie Sims and I met with her yesterday prior to her announcement, and I look forward to continuing to work with her on statewide policy solutions that build on the landmark law enforcement reform legislation Rep. Sims and I passed this year. The road ahead is long, but the journey has begun.

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  • raoul 022218SPRINGFIELD – State Senator Kwame Raoul (D-Chicago) helped advance a measure Wednesday that puts in place a system for families to report individuals who pose a risk of using a gun to commit a violent crime.

    Raoul, the legislation’s chief co-sponsor, argued during the Senate Executive Committee against a former lobbyist for the National Rifle Association who now represents a group of gun dealers.

    “In order to stem the unacceptable tide of gun violence in our country, we have to attack the problem from every angle,” Raoul said. “Again and again, we hear that there were warning signs before a mass shooting. If we can do even one thing to prevent these tragedies, we absolutely must.” 

    The Lethal Violence Order of Protection Act allows a family member or a law enforcement officer to alert the courts that they believe an individual poses a significant risk of self-injury or danger to the public and has access to a firearm.

    If the court agrees, a judge can require that person to temporarily turn over any firearms in his or her possession.

    Raoul will introduce a companion bill that would allow schools, churches and places of business to grant similar orders of protection against individuals who pose a threat to themselves or others.

    Senate Bill 559 passed the Senate Executive Committee and will move to the Senate for further debate.

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  • bodycams mrWith so much attention drawn to the state’s ongoing budget impasse, historic accomplishments are too often overlooked.

    This year, lawmakers in both chambers and from both sides of the aisle did find compromise on a number of issues to improve the lives of Illinoisans and the safety, health and economic future of our state.

    Springfield’s NPR radio station, WUIS, covers developments at the Capitol. Recently, the station published an article looking past the friction to find positive achievements during the 2015 legislative session. Their story includes an interview with Charlie Wheeler, director of UIS’ Public Affairs Reporting program, and Jamey Dunn, Editor of Illinois Issues. Their analysis focused on achievements in criminal justice, including Senate Bill 1304, a comprehensive law enforcement package expected to be a model for reform across the US.

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  • raoul DRSenate resolution draws attention to plight of Haitians and Dominicans of Haitian descent in D.R.

    SPRINGFIELD — State Senator Kwame Raoul (D-Chicago 13) introduced a resolution, which the Illinois Senate adopted today, calling on the U.S. government to use sanctions and/or other penalties to pressure the government of the Dominican Republic to end the discriminatory deportation of residents of Haitian descent, many of whom were illegally trafficked into the country to work in its sugarcane fields.

    “The Dominican Republic has a shameful history of benefitting economically from the cheap or free labor of Haitians and Dominicans of Haitian descent, and in this system that has been described as modern-day slavery, one constant has been the establishment of barriers to legal citizenship, even for those born in the Dominican Republic,” Raoul said. “The Universal Declaration of Human Rights prohibits nations from arbitrarily depriving individuals of their citizenship, but this is precisely what the Dominican Republic has done, and the United States needs to take a stand for international law and the basic rights of oppressed people.”

    In 2010, an amendment to the Dominican Constitution removed its birthright citizenship provision; three years later, the nation’s Constitutional Court applied this amendment retroactively, effectively denationalizing hundreds of thousands of Dominicans of Haitian descent. Subsequently, the government required all migrants and non-citizens to prove that they arrived in the country before October 2011 and either have jobs or are attending school, or else face deportation. By the June 17 deadline, many affected individuals – particularly those who had been brought into the country illegally in the first place – were unable access official documents proving their status. Although the deadline has been extended, an estimated 40,000 persons, fearing sudden deportation, separation from family members and the loss of their belongings, have already left the Dominican Republic for Haiti, where many lack employment and housing and where the sudden population increase is contributing to the lingering humanitarian crisis in that nation.

    “More than 200,000 men, women and children are still at risk of deportation, and violence against Dominicans of Haitian descent is escalating,” Raoul said. “I’m proud that the Illinois Senate is taking a stand against the human rights violations that are taking place and urging the United States government to act quickly.”

  • raoul 111716SPRINGFIELD — State Senator Kwame Raoul (D-Chicago 13) presented legislation establishing an elected Chicago school board in today’s Senate Education Committee.

    House Bill 557 passed the House in March with overwhelming bipartisan support. Over the objection of the Senate Republican Caucus, Senator Raoul pushed yesterday for the legislation to be heard in committee today.

    “The legislation at hand is far too important to not be heard,” Raoul said. “We can all agree that CPS needs reforms and the best way to reach a solution is to continue conversation.”

  • raoul 110216Parents interested in bringing an elected school board to Chicago had the opportunity to ask questions and discuss concerns this week with State Senator Kwame Raoul, who is sponsoring such a proposal.

    Currently, the Chicago board is appointed by the mayor and many residents feel left out of the decision-making process.

    Raoul, a Chicago Democrat, is the sponsor of elected school board legislation, House Bill 557, currently pending in the Senate that previously won House approval. As the House passed it, the Chicago school board would consist of 21 members, one of which would be elected at-large.

  • raoul spec prosCourt appointee would take over prosecution of officer accused of killing Laquan McDonald

    SPRINGFIELD — State Senator Kwame Raoul (D-Chicago 13th) issued the following statement this morning:

    Today I join with a coalition of community leaders to ask the Cook County Circuit Court to appoint a special prosecutor to take over prosecution of the Chicago police officer accused of killing Laquan McDonald. This appointee would also be tasked with investigating the possibility that the circumstances of the 17-year-old’s death were misrepresented, covered up and hidden from the public.

  • raoul 031518Measure passed today also bans the sale and use of bump stocks

    SPRINGFIELD —  One month after the mass shooting in Parkland, Florida, that took the lives of 17 students and teachers, State Senator Kwame Raoul (D-Chicago 13th) passed legislation in the Senate allowing municipalities to regulate assault weapons and banning the use of bump stocks and trigger cranks.

    Currently, the authority to regulate assault weapons rests exclusively with the state, but this legislation returns that power to local governments.

    The measure also makes it illegal to sell, manufacture, purchase or possess bump stocks and trigger cranks.

    “Students around the country walked out today to remember the victims of the shooting in Parkland, Florida, and urge lawmakers to take action,” Raoul said. “I was proud to join my colleagues in a bipartisan show of support for them. But we are in a unique situation. We can do more than host a symbolic demonstration. We can take action, and I am proud that we did today.”

    Today’s vote coincided with a national school walk out, during which thousands of students peacefully protested gun violence and urged legislators to take action. Raoul joined members of the Illinois Senate this morning in a 20-minute walk out in solidarity with the students.

    House Bill 1467 passed the Senate 37-16 and now returns to the House for a concurrence vote.

  • raoul 030118 2SPRINGFIELD — State Senator Kwame Raoul (D-Chicago 13th) passed legislation in the Senate today that gives the Illinois attorney general greater ability to enforce employment laws.

    Currently, the attorney general can file suit under the state’s employment laws with a referral from the Illinois Department of Labor. This legislation removes that requirement and empowers the attorney general to bring suits related to violations of such laws as the Prevailing Wage Act, the Minimum Wage Act and the Day and Temporary Labor Services Act.

    “We know there are workers who are getting their hard-earned wages taken from them by employers and having their rights violated in other ways,” Raoul said. “Valid claims should not get lost in bureaucratic red tape. It makes no sense to have laws on the book to protect workers if we don’t enforce them.

    Raoul worked closely with Rep. Jay Hoffman (D-Belleville), who sponsored the measure in the House.

    “Corporate interests that take advantage of their employees must be held accountable,” Hoffman said. “This measure will give the attorney general’s office more tools to ensure Illinois workers have the right to a safe work environment and that they receive their rightfully owed wages.”

    Senate Bill 193 also creates a task force to promote cooperation between the attorney general and state’s attorneys in enforcing criminal violations of employment laws. It passed the Senate 35-16 and heads to the governor’s desk.

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  • raoul DRCHICAGO — State Senator Kwame Raoul (D-Chicago 13th) issued the following statement as the public awaits the court-ordered release of a video recording of the fatal shooting of Laquan McDonald by Chicago Police Department Officer Jason Van Dyke:

    When I learned that a video of Laquan McDonald’s final moments was to be released to the public, I knew that many would fear its impact, remembering the self-destruction oppressed communities elsewhere have experienced following acts of police brutality and excessive force.

    I believe we can do better in Chicago. But I am not calling for calm. There’s nothing to be calm about. Instead, I’m calling for sustained, focused, constructive outrage that demands full accountability but doesn’t destroy community.

    Because of legislation I advanced earlier this year, we now have legal protocols in place that mandate independent investigations of police-involved deaths, expose the misdeeds of rogue cops so they don’t quietly move from one department to another, require improved officer training on bias and the use of force and establish funding and protocols for the use of body cameras.

    But I know it’s not enough.

    Everyone responsible in this atrocity – not only Officer Van Dyke, but any individual who participated in a cover-up that delayed justice for Laquan McDonald and his family – must be held accountable. We should direct our outrage toward asking our local prosecutor whether it would have taken 13 months to resolve this case if the video had shown a civilian committing the same act. We should ask why Office Van Dyke was still on the beat after 17 public complaints were filed against him and the City paid half a million dollars to settle allegations that he had used excessive force. We should question the ability of Chicago’s independent police review authority, which has recent come under scrutiny from the Better Government Association, to do its job with integrity. And as we call on our neighbors to abandon the no-snitch code, in our outrage we demand the same of law enforcement.

    Watch the video. Don’t be destructive. But don’t be calm.

  • Sen. Kwame raoulSPRINGFIELD —  State Senator Kwame Raoul (D-Chicago 13th) introduced legislation last week that seeks to find treatment for trauma victims accused of gun offenses rather than imposing harsh sentences on them.

    “The trauma caused by violence in many communities often goes untreated and can have a lasting impact on victims, sometimes leading them to commit crimes themselves,” Raoul said. “Diversion programs to treat the underlying trauma will have a much more positive impact on these individuals and their communities than incarceration will.”

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