Kane state's attorney: Don't defund police, but pass needed reforms

  • Kane County State's Attorney Joe McMahon

    Kane County State's Attorney Joe McMahon

Updated 6/9/2020 6:21 PM

State lawmakers need to equalize education funding and pass a "duty to intervene" law for police if local departments won't initiate their own policies, Kane County State's Attorney Joe McMahon said Tuesday.

Addressing the worldwide protests over George Floyd's death in Minneapolis police custody, McMahon elaborated on two key changes he believes law enforcement should enact: the duty to intervene law and changing the threshold for lethal force from when it's "reasonable" to "necessary."


"When police officers use force, it must be necessary and what's necessary should be viewed on an objective basis," said McMahon, who noted officers are being asked to step into the roles of social workers and mental health experts. "There has be an in-depth conversation about what we want our police officers to do."

McMahon said state lawmakers should act if police unions don't self-regulate and hold the small percentage of bad cops accountable.

"I understand the idea of a union fighting for its members. But at some point, when individual members are bringing that entire organization down, you have to look internally and figure out 'OK, somebody needs to go.' Otherwise, the entire organization is going to crumble under the bad conduct of a small percentage of members. That's what's happening in this country," he said.

Education funding has vexed Springfield lawmakers for decades; McMahon, an Elgin Republican, pointed to a Democratic supermajority and said lawmakers must act.

McMahon, who spoke at an Aurora protest over the weekend, said some demands from the public, such as defunding or outright abolishing the police, are "unrealistic."

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Police departments and officers must be "appropriately funded and trained," but at the same time, lawmakers must invest more in mental health services and education.

In the meantime, a "duty to intervene" in cases of excessive force or overescalation of force should be enacted by departments -- or by state lawmakers.

"Police officers don't have to wait for that to become law. Police departments can make that part of their standard operating procedure, rules and regulations," McMahon said. "Maybe it's a conversation before it turns into a use-of-force situation."

McMahon was asked how he would respond to people saying he is speaking out about police reform now because he is going into private practice instead of seeking reelection in November. He stressed he's been fighting injustice for 10 years and accepted the role of special prosecutor in the case against Chicago Police Officer Jason Van Dyke in the 2014 killing of Laquan McDonald.

"The fact that I'm not running doesn't mean I'm not going to speak up when I seen an injustice or inconsistency," McMahon said.

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