Naperville council won't call on Pritzker to veto criminal justice reform bill
A resolution that would have urged Gov. J.B. Pritzker to veto a sweeping criminal justice reform bill was narrowly shot down by the Naperville City Council, despite entreaties from local law enforcement leaders.
Council members Paul Hinterlong, Patty Gustin and Kevin Coyne brought forward the proposal Tuesday denouncing the General Assembly's passage of House Bill 3653 in the final hours of a lame-duck session last week.
They were joined in support by Mayor Steve Chirico, who said the legislative process lacked transparency and collaboration with key stakeholders, including police and municipal leaders whose budgets, operations and communities would be directly affected by the 764-page document.
But some council members said the resolution would carry little weight and only further divide the community on a controversial, state-level issue. The measure failed in a 4-5 vote after a nearly 2½-hour discussion involving more than 90 public speakers or comments read into the record.
"This debate is in the wrong forum, it's at the wrong time, and it's with the wrong people," Councilwoman Theresa Sullivan said. "It's political theater. It's designed to give the impression of action without actually solving a problem."
The goal was not to stymie criminal justice reform, Hinterlong said, but rather to back Naperville police and other entities that want a seat at the table. A section of the proposed resolution asked the incoming General Assembly to go back to the drawing board and work with "all interested parties" to refine the legislation.
If signed by the governor, the current bill would eliminate cash bail by 2023, mandate body cameras by 2025, change use-of-force rules, and make it easier to decertify and fire problematic officers, among other provisions.
DuPage County Sheriff James Mendrick, State's Attorney Robert Berlin and Naperville Police Chief Robert Marshall expressed concerns Tuesday that sections of the legislation could lead to unintended consequences. Rather than encouraging rehabilitation among detainees, for example, Mendrick said he fears the bill would echo "a basic catch-and-release scenario" that increases recidivism.
"There are some things in that bill that we in law enforcement like and support, but there are also quite a few things in there that we have major problems with," Marshall said. "We just wanted more time as an organization to vet the impact of this legislation, not only on our officers but on the citizens we serve."
Elected officials praised the Naperville Police Department for its professionalism and proactive policies, many of which already align with some of the state's proposed reforms, Councilman Benny White said.
The city has shown its commitment to investing in public safety, council members said, pointing to expenses allocated in the 2021 budget for four new police officers, an additional social worker, crisis intervention training and the initial steps of implementing a body camera program.
Rather than passing a resolution aimed at halting the legislation, White said, he believes the city would have a greater influence by continuing the dialogue about shortcomings identified by local law enforcement leaders and "trying to make the current bill better."