Divided Naperville City Council calls on state to reconsider parts of the SAFE-T Act

A divided Naperville City Council narrowly approved a resolution urging state lawmakers to reconsider elements of the SAFE-T Act, a wide-ranging law enforcement initiative signed into law last year.

The resolution, introduced by Councilwoman Jennifer Bruzan Taylor, asks legislators to work with community stakeholders to "fix remaining problems" with the law "limiting the imposition of cash bail for violent offenders, unreasonably limiting police officer discretion to make arrests, imposing unreasonable police certification and decertification, and mandating unreasonable custodial accommodations."

After numerous public comments at last week's city council meeting supporting and opposing the SAFE-T Act, council members voted 5-3 to approve the resolution. Councilmen Ian Holzhauer, Patrick Kelly and Benny White voted "no." Councilwoman Theresa Sullivan abstained.

"I asked for this resolution because our number one duty as public officials is public safety," said Bruzan Taylor, who added the phrase "for violent offenders" to the cash bail reference in the resolution.

"The resolution's not asking to get rid of the SAFE-T Act, to overturn it in any way," she said. "We're just asking for a discussion for some changes."

The main debate about the SAFE-T Act focused on the elimination of cash bail, a stipulation set to take effect in January. Those in favor said eliminating cash bail thwarts the ability of those with money to buy themselves out of jail while poor people remain incarcerated.

Opponents of cash bail elimination said violent criminals will be on the street without the extra measure. Bruzan Taylor said she supports the no cash bail policy for nonviolent offenders as well as the SAFE-T Act requirement of body cameras for police officers.

Mayor Steve Chirico, who voted for the resolution with Bruzan Taylor and fellow council members Patty Gustin, Paul Hinterlong and Paul Leong, said the act was passed last year "without debate, no witnesses, voted on in the dark of night."

"Any bill that is good for our state should be considerably more transparent than that," he said.

Holzhauer, a former Navy lawyer, noted that members of the armed forces receive the same legal considerations regardless of rank. He favored the elimination of cash bail because he said it removes an advantage for people with money.

"It's a little bit ridiculous that we can sleep under the blanket of freedom provided by our military, hold them to one standard, and have a system here where you can buy your way out of jail if you have the money to do so," Holzhauer said.

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