On Jan. 1, 2023, a series of Democratic-pushed “criminal justice reforms” went into effect in the state of Illinois.
Democrats touted the passage of the Safety, Accountability, Fairness, and Equity-Today (SAFE-T) Act, a series of reforms advanced over the objections of multiple law enforcement agencies.
SAFE-T reforms reduced certain felonies to misdemeanors, eliminated cash bail and reduced the penalties for many crimes.
The reforms also appear to target officers, making it easier to move to revoke an officer’s license, elevating the impact of anonymous complaints against officers and banning the destruction of police misconduct records.
Illinois was the first state to eliminate a cash bail system, which means that defendants can’t be required to post bail before being released from jail unless a judge determines them a particular flight risk or threat to public safety.
Sherrif Bullard noted that 208 of 280 people arrested in his county since September 18 were released within days of their arrest.
“It was some drug offenses, some violent offenses, and some DUI charges all released without having to post any kind of bond,” Bullard said. “You see a significant amount of offenders being placed relatively quickly back out into society.”
In speaking about the impact the reforms have on public safety, Orland Park Mayor Keith Pekau told Fox, “When I said that this is the most dangerous law I’ve ever seen, I believe that.”
During an interview on Fox News, Jefferson Country Sheriff Jeff Bullard said that after one year, the impact of SAFE-T reforms has been “overwhelmingly negative.”
Charging state Legislatures with malfeasance, Bullard charged lawmakers with “wanting to damage the policing profession.” He added, “And they’re having some success at it.”
“You can see things in the law when you look at individual factors of it, that this law was generated out of a mistrust for law enforcement,” Bullard argued. “So any rhetoric that would say it was to benefit law enforcement, I believe is disingenuous.”
Noting the spike in violent crime across the state, Bullard urged “Policing leaders need to step up and stand against it … very loud, very vocal, very strongly.”
The sheriff noted that the 764-page justice reform regulation document makes it difficult for officers to do their work, claiming the “convoluted” procedural guidelines leave officers feeling “uneasy.
Bullard noted that his department has had to hire a law firm to assist with policy review and implementation — this draws considerable funds from his overall budget.
So far, Jefferson County has met every statute deadline in the 764-page law, but with many more changes down the road, the southern county hired a law firm to help with policy procedure review in fiscal year 2024. The cost is a significant line item in the small, rural county’s budget, Bullard said.
We felt compelled to hire a law firm “to make sure that we can keep up with all the requirements that not only the SAFE-T Act has proposed, but other Illinois statutes and laws that have not been police friendly over the years,” said the sheriff.
Leaving no doubt about his opinion on the justice reforms enacted last year, Bullard said: “Progressive reforms like the SAFE-T Act are a demoralization strategy” by left-wing politicians to get those in law enforcement to leave the profession “or to just drop back and not do much – basically be retired on duty.”
“Make the profession undesirable to where it starts becoming harder and harder, especially for local agencies, to recruit and retain people,” Bullard added.
In comments directed to legislators and Gov. J.B. Pritzker, Bullard said: “We’re hoping that somewhere along the way, good reason takes over and they realize the problems that they’re causing.”
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