peters sims 102820CHICAGO – Illinois lawmakers examined police reform during Tuesday’s joint hearing of the Senate Criminal Law Committee and Senate Special Committee on Public Safety, the seventh hearing on criminal justice reform prompted by the Illinois Legislative Black Caucus to examine and address systemic racism in the state.

“We must have a system that is more just and equitable for both communities and police,” Senator Elgie Sims (D-Chicago) said. “If a defendant is guilty, they should be held accountable but there should not be a thumb placed on the scale to make someone plead to something that they did not do. That is not justice. We have to make sure that we are holding the right people accountable.”

The joint committee discussed a variety of potential reforms to root out racial bias in policing, including body cameras, data collection and transparency, issues related to officer-involved shootings, residency requirements and official misconduct.

Witnesses included Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle, the Illinois State’s Attorneys Association, Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx, Williamson County State’s Attorney Brandon Zanotti, Cook County Public Defender Amy Campanelli, Elgin City Councilwoman Tish Powell, the Illinois Association of Chiefs of Police and the Law Enforcement Action Partnership.

Sims chaired the joint hearing. Chair of the House Judiciary-Criminal Law Committee State Representative Justin Slaughter (D-Chicago) and other committee members were also present to hear testimony from witnesses and ask questions.

"Body cameras, and more specifically, policies that require their constant use and that allow officers to be punished for violating them is the easiest and most effective way to ensure a greater sense of police accountability," Senate Special Committee on Public Safety Chair Robert Peters (D-Chicago) said. "The era of 'their word versus mine' must come to an end. There must be a publicly available, unbiased record of any incidents that occur so that justice can be delivered and so that safety can be prioritized above all else."

"In order to dismantle the systemic racism that exists within our criminal justice system, we must address the procedures and policies that perpetuate the inequality and injustice that Black communities face,” Slaughter said. “Holding law enforcement officers to a higher standard and examining ways to increase transparency and accountability will undoubtedly help protect our families and pave the way for a more just future."

Criminal justice reform is the first of four pillars in the Black Caucus’ fall legislative agenda to eliminate systemic racism in Illinois:

  1. Criminal justice reform, violence reduction and police accountability
  2. Education and workforce development
  3. Economic access, equity and opportunity
  4. Health care and human services