Illinois Safe-T Act – Effective Changes July 1, 2021

July 1, 2021

Beginning July 1, 2021, various changes of the Safe-T Act (the “Act”) (new law effecting a broad spectrum of policing activity) are effective in Illinois. As a reminder, some of the top changes include:

  1. Duties of Illinois Officers Expanded

The Act creates a duty to render aid, which is “a policy in Illinois that all law enforcement officers must, as soon as reasonably practical, determine if a person is injured, whether as the result of use of force or otherwise, and render medical aid and assistance consistent with training and request emergency medical assistance if necessary.” 720 ILCS 5/7-15. Rendering aid is defined and includes such acts as administration of an automated external defibrillator and carrying the person to the relevant medical professional.

In addition, there is a duty to intervene, which creates an affirmative duty for peace officers to intervene to stop another peace officer from using unauthorized or excessive degree of permitted force, without regard for chain of command. 720 ILCS 5/7-16. The Act provides for a reporting requirement in instances of intervention, and further protects officers from retaliation for intervening as required by the Act.

  1. Use of Force

The Act amends the section providing for officer’s use of force in making arrest, by adding the “totality of the circumstances” into the officer’s reasonable belief assessment. With respect to an officer’s use of force during an arrest that is likely to cause death or great bodily harm, the Criminal Code previously required an officer to reasonably believe that such force is necessary to prevent death or great bodily harm to himself or others, or when he reasonably believes both that:

“(1) such force is necessary to prevent the arrest from being defeated by resistance or escape; and (2) the person to be arrested has committed or attempted a forcible felony which involves the infliction or threatened infliction of great bodily harm or is attempting to escape by use of a deadly weapon, or otherwise indicates that he will endanger human life or inflict great bodily harm unless arrested without delay.

The new law, 720 ILCS 5/7-5, provides, in addition to the existing requirements, that the officer reasonably believes that the person to be arrested is likely to cause great bodily harm to another with respect to preventing the person to be arrested from defeating or escaping the arrest.

Of added note is that the prohibition in place against chokeholds is updated to also prohibit restraint above the shoulders with risk of asphyxiation in the performance of their duties, unless deadly force is otherwise justified by law. 720 ILCS 5/7-5.5.

  1. Law Enforcement Misconduct and Record Keeping

The Act provides for law enforcement misconduct to be punishable as a Class 3 felony. Misconduct includes, in the performances of official duties, knowingly and intentionally misrepresenting or failing to provide facts in reporting or investigating law enforcement conduct, withholding knowledge of misrepresentations of another officer from supervisors, investigators, or similar, and failure to comply with State law requiring use of officer-worn body cameras (body cameras required by every department no later than 2025). 720 ILCS 5/33-9.

All public records and nonpublic records relating to complaints, investigations, and adjudication of police misconduct shall be permanently retained and not destroyed. 50 ILCS 205/25.

  1. Phone Calls While in Police Custody

Of final note is the expanded statutory right of persons in police custody to have, free of charge, three phone calls. The phone call(s) are to be made as soon as possible upon being taken into police custody, and no later than three hours after arrival at the first place of custody. The person has the right to retrieve phone numbers on their cell phone contact list prior to the phone being inventoried. 725 ILCS 5/103-3.

Departments, pursuant to the Act, must put up in a conspicuous place a sign containing the following information:

  • the right to have access to a phone within three hours of being in police custody; and
  • persons in police custody have the right to make three phone calls within three hours after being taken into custody, at no charge.