Senator HastingsSPRINGFIELD – In response to the passage of an extensive piece of legislation that would address issues with the criminal justice system in Illinois, State Senator Michael E. Hastings (D-Frankfort) issued the following statement:

“It is time for change in our state and in our country.

“Like many of you, I watched in horror as radical anarchists stormed our Capitol, killing a police officer and putting our elected officials and democracy in peril. I feel ashamed knowing we still have a double standard in our society, simply because of the color of people’s skin. I have watched our debates over critical policy issues devolve into vicious personal attacks. We have stopped listening to and learning from each other.

“This week, we voted in the Illinois General Assembly to take a better path. I supported police reforms and accountability measures that I believe are absolutely necessary to heal the deep divide we face.

“Let me be clear: I stand strongly with our men and women in law enforcement. During my tenure in the General Assembly, I have sponsored a law that increases training opportunities for our state police officers via an internship program, voted to increase financial benefits for families who lost loved ones in the line of duty, saw to it that our law enforcement officers were receiving the best possible health and wellness services, and increased highway camera presence along Cook County highways in the name of public safety. Additionally, I have received numerous awards from law enforcement advocacy organizations, including recognition as the Illinois Police Chiefs Association and Illinois Crime Commission’s Legislator of the Year.

“There is no question in my mind bad actors have committed heinous acts outside of any established protocols in law enforcement. Officers should not be unjustly punished for making unintended mistakes, but we must do more to hold accountable those whose motives and actions cannot be justified.

“The Senate did act on this legislation in the early morning hours, but it is blatantly false to say we did not know what we were voting on. This piece of legislation is the result of a year of public hearings, hundreds of hours of testimony from all stakeholders – and most importantly, critical negotiations with our law enforcement and criminal justice experts and advocates. All had an important say in this process and the final result. When my colleagues and I reviewed the initial draft of the legislation and talked with our law enforcement partners, we knew changes had to be made. We made sure the final legislation addressed these three points:

  • We protected qualified immunity for police officers. Everyone deserves due process.
  • We stood up for collective bargaining rights for law enforcement and other public workers.
  • We opposed financial penalties for local governments who cannot afford to provide body cameras for officers.

“No legislation is perfect. While I am disappointed in the social media attacks I have received and the misinformation being propagated, I am listening to everyone providing reasoned criticism and opposition to this legislation. There is no doubt we have more work to do on this issue in the General Assembly. We will use this legislation as a starting point for the work ahead.

“I am committed to standing up for people and standing behind my votes. I will continue to have a dialogue with on the people I represent about why this legislation is needed, and I commit to turning your feedback into the catalyst for making it better. I served in the military and know what an awesome responsibility and obligation it is to serve selflessly. Because of this experience, I have spent my entire career assisting our law enforcement officials when they needed me to, and I can assure you that I would never vote in favor of something that restricts their ability to do their jobs effectively. The people of the Southwest Suburbs deserve a well-informed, pragmatic and fair leader who represents all of our communities in Springfield and that is what I have strived to be since I was elected in 2012 and will continue to do moving forward.

“Please join me in constructive discussions about these and the other difficult issues we face today. The people of the Southland and our great state deserve nothing less than our best.”