Chief’s Views on Police Reform Bill

The Illinois House and Senate passed a bill that is sure to bring sweeping changes to law enforcement for years to come if signed into law by Governor Pritzker. The bill, HB 3653, has been the topic of many conversations on social media, the news, and other platforms since then. I sat down with Police Chief Chad Scanlon to get his perspective on the bill and other areas of police reform that have been discussed in recent months.

What are your thoughts on the new police reform bill that was recently passed by State Legislature? What are the most concerning elements to you as a police officer?

“I wasn’t too excited about it for a multitude of reasons: It makes citizens less safe and police officers less safe. The bill makes it more difficult for us to do our job.”

 Specifically, Chief Scanlon mentioned that it makes it harder to arrest people that were conceivable threats. Chief Scanlon feels this bill makes officers less safe because there is a specific part of the bill that restricts officers from limiting the use of force to apprehend somebody. Chief Scanlon expressed concern over the idea that he may not be able to restrain somebody with physical force when the situation calls for it based off of the apprehended person’s own actions. He goes on to add that now officers have to worry about having personal liability taken against them if they do. 

Another concern that Chief Scanlon mentions is the body cameras. Although body cameras will be required, officers will not be allowed to use the cameras to write up their police report. Scanlon expands that this opens up the potential for officers to face a class 3 felony if the police report they write up does not match what the camera shows.  Oftentimes these potential incriminating scenarios are coming in high stress moments that make an officer’s ability to recall some of the crucial details difficult without the aid of the camera.

 Another area of concern is that anonymous complaints are now allowed, and an officer can be fired due to anonymous complaints without facts or evidence. Chief Scanlon emphasized his frustration that no law enforcement personnel were consulted in the creation of this bill. 

What are the positives that you believe may come from this bill?

Chief Scanlon says he appreciates police officers being held accountable and adds he thinks they should especially bad officers. He reiterates he just wishes the legislature  would have formed their conclusions and opinions on what the reform bill should look like by talking to officers instead of just winging it.

There has been a lot of buzz on social media about how this bill “defunds the police” is there anything in the bill that actually removes money from Police Departments? 

Chief Scanlon explains that there is no specific defunding of the police in this bill unless departments do not comply with parts of the bill by a certain point. He adds that if departments do not have their officers equipped with cameras by 2025, they will see funding reduction. As far as cameras go, Scanlon is unsure of when Herscher will be implementing cameras but he will be talking with the board about it in the coming months. He is also unsure as far a cost at this point.

How will the passing of this bill directly impact the Herscher Police Department?

Chief Scanlon reiterates that Herscher’s officers “already do the right thing” and they receive very minimal citizen complaints. Herscher will probably be forced to up their budget for training because “we are going to be putting our officers in classrooms more than they are on the streets.” Chief Scanlon explained the amount of required training has already significantly increased in the last five years or so. Scanlon, as the chief, is required to do 20 hours of training a year.  Regular officers have to do two required courses per year and he believes their training will be increased. He adds that they just lost a great detective in Larry Osenga who resigned, in large part, because of this bill and the general shift in appreciation of the law enforcement officer. 

One of the big components of the bill is the elimination of Cash Bail, what are your thoughts on Cash Free Bail?

“I believe it is very dangerous, cash free bail, in my opinion, will allow offenders to reoffend quicker.” Chief Scanlon says he believes it is only for misdemeanor level offenses and other cases such as domestic violence issues and other serious level crimes will not be beneficiaries of cash free bail. 

He mentions criminal trespassing and disorderly conduct as examples of people who will be allowed to leave without posting bail. Chief Scanlon explained it as if a restaurant owner reports a belligerent customer, there are now limited avenues for the police officers to help due to the nature of how quickly the offenders will be released from jail.

 The concept of cash free bail is designed to prevent the poor from staying in jail for too long. While he admits he does not have an answer for that problem (short of them not committing arrest-able offenses) he fears this solution presents more harm than good. Chief Scanlon says that only two other states (New York and New Jersey) have this system in place, and in New York it is not working. He mentions that the number of repeat offenders in New York have increased significantly adding, “what do you fear if you do not have to fear jail.”

What will be the most direct impact that the average Herscher resident will see because of this bill?

Chief Scanlon says the average person will not see any changes, but notes that, depending on how things progress, officers will potentially not be able to arrest certain offenders. He also notes that there will have to be increased spending to cover those costs so his department’s budget will have to go up.

Is there anything else you would like the public to know?

Chief Scanlon reiterates that, in his opinion, less that one percent of officers are bad, and he feels that police are held to level of perfection that no other profession has. He says at times it feels that police officers have to be perfect 110%  of the time. He reiterates that he got into the police line of work to uphold the law and help people (and emphasizes he still loves his job) and he says that this law makes that more difficult and that he might not be able to give the help and relief to some victims that they need because of this bill. He reiterates that he believes police reform needs to happen (as well as reform in a lot of other public service fields), but he is just not sure this bill is the way that reform needs to happen. “We are fortunate to live in an awesome community that supports the police, even people I’ve arrested still support the police.” 

This is not included in the bill but, what do you think of the Police Department adding social workers to deal with mental illness?

“I think it is a good thing, but do I think that is the end all to the story? No. I think options are a good thing.” He goes on to add that he does not believe there is enough help out there for mentally ill patients. He laments, “we put people in jail because they are acting weird, or we send them to the hospital, because there is simply no other place to send them.” 

He says there are simply not enough help centers out there. Kankakee has Aunt Martha’s and the Helen Wheeler Clinic, but there is just not enough locally or throughout the country. He says that is where we need to be focusing our attention and putting our money. He does feel that the Herscher Police Department is adequately prepared to deal with mental illness. He stresses that his department has to deal with mental illness frequently ranging from suicide risks to people in mental health crises. He meets with local area administrators and hospital leaders frequently on how to best improve their treatment, and solutions for dealing with mentally ill people. He adds that they have two officers who are CIT certified (Crisis Intervention Trained) to better help people in crisis.