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Opposition For Illinois Police Reform Bill That Holds Officers Liable For Civil Suits When Violating Constitutional Rights, Requires Body Cameras

CHICAGO (CBS) -- Police reform legislation some see as a path to end systemic racism is facing major opposition from some lawmakers and police unions.

Among the things it calls for are: an end to cash bail, an overhaul of use of force recommendations, including mandatory body cameras by 2025, and holding officers liable for civil suits if they violate a person's constitutional rights.

Veteran Chicago officers told CBS 2's Suzanne Le Mignot if the bill passes it will be the death of law enforcement in Illinois. There will be mass retirements. One said officers will be afraid to do anything because of the fear they will lose their jobs.

The wife of a Lockport sergeant reached out to CBS 2 with her concerns.

"It's very scary. It's very scary for every citizen in Illinois if they read the bill," said Valerie Miller, wife of Sgt. Jason Miller.

She said she is concerned an amendment added to HB163, which is now known as HB3653, will change officers' lives if they're made personally liable for civil suits.

"We could lose our house," she said. "We could lose our money for retirement and my kids going to college."

Miller also said she is concerned officers could be disciplined after an anonymous complaint.

"You feel like this bill takes away every right of the police officers and gives the rights to the criminals," she said.

State Sen. John Curran, R-41st, said his office has received more than 500 calls opposing the amendment since Friday.

"This bill will prevent their detainment, and they will be out amongst the community in a further threat to public safety," Curran said.

State Sen. Elgie Sims, D-17th, introduced the 611 page amendment to HB3653 in the Illinois Senate, comprised from 30 hours of testimony and nine hours of public hearings.

"This bill will fundamentally change the criminal justice system in the state of Illinois," Sims said.

Sims said the bill will allow a judge to determine bond on a case by case basis. As for officers being liable in a civil suit, Sims said that would only happen if an officer violates a person's constitutional rights.

"I have talked to constituents," he said. said. "I have talked to community members, and that's all they're asking for. They are asking for that if an officer violates their constitutional rights, that they be held accountable."

Sims said there is also a large training component in the legislation.

"There's a focus on training in use of force, in procedural justice and all those things, but also there is an investment in focusing on officer wellness," he said.

Keith A. Karlson is the lawyer for the Metropolitan Alliance of Police, representing 5,000 police officers and dispatchers in the suburbs and collar counties.

"As it was initially introduced the bill gutted collective bargaining rights for frontline workers," Karlson said. "The Metropolitan alliance of police is dedicated to working with any legislator that wants to improve policing and make it so that all Illinoisans feel safe."

Sims said since HB163 has been moved to HB3653 those who submitted witness slips should refile them with the new bill, but the previous slips are supposed to carry over. The bill is expected to be voted on in the senate by 11:59 Wednesday morning.

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