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Proposed Changes to the Safe-T Act

March 26, 2021

On February 22, 2021, Governor Pritzker signed a sweeping criminal justice reform bill known as the “Safe-T Act”. The Safe-T Act affects a broad spectrum of policing activity, including body camera policies (summarized here). It was passed despite criticism from some that the provisions went too far; suggested “trailer bills” are already being proposed by groups such as the Illinois Association of Chiefs of Police (“ILACP”).

Some of the top issues being discussed include:

Body Cameras

  • Changing the criteria for implementing body cameras from municipality size to police department size (as determined by the number of full-time sworn officers);
  • Allowing officers to review body camera video before writing reports; and
  • Having criminal charges apply only to those officers who intentionally shut down body cameras/etc.

Use of Force

  • Removing the provision which prevents an officer from using deadly force to an individual because the officer reasonably believes they can be apprehended at a later date;
  • Requiring law enforcement agencies to adopt and develop policies designed to protect individuals with mental health, developmental, or intellectual disabilities due to the possible limitations of said individuals from being able to understand/comply with commands; and
  • Amends language of some limitations of what an officer can do during a declared riot or large scale civil unrest.

In addition, some of the proposed changes by the ILACP include adding language clarifying that a person would be subject to arrest for obstructing a police officer, as well as amending the Safe-T Act to allow officers greater flexibility to make a custodial arrest of an individual who commits a Class B or C misdemeanor. Specifically, the proposed changes by the ILACP include allowing for the custodial arrest for Class B and C misdemeanors, petty offenses, and business offenses if the officer reasonably believes the accused poses a threat to the community or any person, or if the officer believes such arrest is necessary to discontinue the criminal behavior or breach of the peace.

While the ramifications of the Safe-T Act are not yet clear, it appears likely that there will be attempts to modify and clarify the law going forward.