Illinois Democrats Deny Police-Aid Plan Was Introduced to Blunt Criticism of ‘Safe-T Act'

Democrats in the General Assembly, under pressure from a law enforcement community that feels unappreciated in a time of rising crime, introduced a package of legislation Monday to bolster support, from pinning badges on top candidates to allowing retirees to keep their service revolvers.

The plan would provide unspecified funding for local police departments to recruit and train candidates; to buy body cameras and storage capacity for video; to create off-hours daycare for single parents to advance careers despite the job's unusual hours; and to expand mental health resources for first responders to deal with the trauma that can lead to an early exit from the field.

“We are all experiencing across the nation an uptick in violence," said the mental health program’s sponsor, Rep. Lindsey LaPointe, a Chicago Democrat, adding that survivors and first responders "are carrying the biggest burden of this crisis.”

With four days left in the spring session, this is the second crime-reduction package to come from Democrats in four days. The first focused on support services for victims.

Monday's measures aim to support police communities that complained they were demonized 15 months ago when the Black Caucus-led policing overhaul was signed into law. Known as the SAFE-T Act, the overhaul came amid a spate of police-involved shootings in Chicago and nationwide.

SAFE-T set standards for police use-of-force, set a schedule to require all police to wear body cameras, eliminated cash bail for criminal suspects and more.

Presenters at the Democrats' state Capitol news conference Monday were overwhelmingly white. Rockford Democratic Rep. Dave Vella said members of the Black Caucus were meeting on other issues but had worked on and endorsed the package.

He rebuffed a question about whether the the plan is an “antidote” to ease the discomfort police feel about SAFE-T.

“This isn't an antidote to anything,” Vella said. “This is us trying to make the streets safer and get more police on the street. That’s it.”

Some Republicans have gone so far as to blame rising crime on the SAFE-T Act, despite virtually none of it having taken effect. House Minority Leader Jim Durkin, a Western Springs Republican, continued the campaign Monday.

“Democrats in Illinois have repeatedly attacked our police and justice system," Durkin said in a statement. "Today, they are trying to rewrite history. Until they wake up and repeal their pro-criminal SAFE-T Act, there will be no safe communities in Illinois.”

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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