Crespo, Brouillette debate elimination of cash bail, other potential impacts of Safe-T Act

Illinois' multifaceted law enforcement reform bill, which includes the elimination of cash bail as of Jan. 1, is a dividing issue for Democratic state Rep. Fred Crespo of Hoffman Estates and Republican challenger Patrick Thomas Brouillette.

The hopefuls for the 44th District state House seat recently shared their views of the Safe-T Act and other state issues before a representative of the Daily Herald Editorial Board.

Brouillette, also a Hoffman Estates resident, said there is only one part of the entire bill he might have supported had he been in the state legislature when it passed last year.

“The only part that I think is salvageable was probably the body camera piece of it,” he said of the bill's requirement that all police officers be equipped with bodycams by 2025.

“There's been a lot of lawyers, state's attorneys, chiefs of police, police officers that have spoken out about it that are very well-educated in what's going on with the Safe-T Act,” Brouillette added. “The crime rate is already out of hand, it's skyrocketing, and then we're going to add in this additional piece. I can't imagine what 2023 has in store for us if this thing actually passes as it sits now.”

Brouillette called for the bill to be either significantly amended or fully repealed.

Crespo said the bill is a recognition that the state's justice system needed reform. The law has been and continues to be tweaked as potential unintended consequences are recognized — such as its initial determination that Tasers are “lethal weapons” or mistakenly barring municipalities with red-light cameras from applying for grants for body cameras.

“According to some stats out there, three out of five people in (jail) have not been convicted of a crime,” Crespo said. “Most of those that are there are there because they were not able to pay bail.

“We have problems in our correctional centers that are overcrowded.” he added. “So these are the things, the premises, that started this conversation, aside from the fact of the things that were high-profile on TV, abuses that have taken place because of some bad cops.”

Crespo noted that the bill also includes enhancements to law enforcement, such as grants to fund efforts to reclaim firearms from those whose Firearm Owners Identification cards have been suspended or revoked. Only 32 police departments in the state — including Schaumburg — have applied for such a grant, he said.

He said his views on possible revisions are being driven by police chiefs in the 44th District and other law enforcement professionals, rather than the opinions of misinformed people.

“I'm not going to fall into this trap where I'm seeing these fake newspapers pointing out all these things about the Safe-T Act scaring people. I'm not going to play that game,” he said. “Is it going to be repealed? No, it's not. I think any pragmatic person understands that. Do we need changes? Absolutely, like we always do with any big bill.”

Brouillette countered that disinformation about the Safe-T Act isn't coming from only one direction.

“There's a lot of misinformation coming from the left about this, and they're trying to have a narrative to cover what the true intentions of the Safe-T Act are,” he said. “We shouldn't treat criminals with more rights than victims. The victims needs to have more rights than the criminals, and this thing, this entire bill, just needs to be fully repealed and gotten rid of ASAP.”

The 44th District includes parts of Bartlett, Elgin, Hanover Park, Hoffman Estates, Schaumburg and Streamwood.

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