SPRINGFIELD — A new package of legislation aimed at helping empower police to tackle violent crime has been introduced by state Sen. Chapin Rose, R-Mahomet, and four other Republican state senators.
One of the bills, the proposed “Fund the Police Act,” would make $100 million available in grants to local governments and universities to hire police officers and buy equipment designed to prevent such crimes as gang violence, motor-vehicle theft, carjacking and the sale of contraband.
The funding could also cover mental health, hiring and retention incentives and overtime pay.
“Downstate communities, including Champaign and Decatur, are experiencing unprecedented levels of violent crime,” Rose said. “The Fund the Police Act will put resources where they are needed most — getting more boots on the ground to fight violent crime, funding police training, incentivizing the hiring and retention of police officers, helping to offset local governments’ police overtime costs and helping to tackle mental health issues which contribute to the overall problem.”
Other bills in the 14-bill package would:
Require a mandatory 10-year sentence for the following crimes: aggravated discharge of a firearm, use of a stolen or illegally acquired firearm in the commission of a crime, unlawful use or possession of weapons by felons and being an armed habitual criminal. Second offenses would carry a life sentence.
Require a mandatory minimum 10-year penalty for selling or giving a firearm to a convicted felon.
Require state’s attorneys to provide written justification when a weapons offense is reduced to a lesser offense in a plea bargain. Judges would also be required to explain reasons for accepting the plea bargain or imposing a sentence in a written sentencing order.
Allow a school or school district to employ a qualified retired law-enforcement officer to serve as a school resource officer.
Restore the offenses of aggravated vehicular hijacking and armed robbery committed by juveniles with a firearm to automatic transfer provisions of adult court.
Require the Illinois Criminal Justice Information Authority to track gun crimes by convicted felons, including real-time reporting of gun offense charges and outcomes of each case.
Deny bail for convicted gun offenders or felons charged with a gun offense.
Amend the Community Mental Health Act to require 20 percent of taxes levied under the act be deposited in a special fund controlled by the county sheriff to be used for mental-health services within the county jail.
Require commitment of juveniles who use or discharge a firearm in a school that results in a death or injury to the Department of Juvenile Justice.
Prevent “catch and release” of juvenile carjackers by requiring a shelter care hearing to determine if it’s safe to release the juvenile or if they should continue to be held until an adjudicatory hearing.
Add violation of bail bond, escape and aggravated fleeing and attempting to elude police to the more serious “Category A” bond provisions.
Allow a county board to adopt a resolution for the county to opt out of Bail Reform Act provisions.
Champaign County State’s Attorney Julia Rietz said she supports, in general concept, the proposed funding initiative for law enforcement, “particularly for the tools we need to effectively prosecute our cases.”
Rietz said she’d have to read the proposed bills in their entirety, but generally, prosecutors oppose requirements to publicly explain their decisions in complicated cases.
There are a “wide range of public-safety reasons” why it wouldn’t be appropriate for state’s attorneys to explain each of the decisions they make, she said.
Rose said legislative leaders “found time to ram through multiple controversial bills this year that do nothing to keep people safe.”
“Meanwhile, people are literally dying in the streets, school buses are getting shot at and families are afraid to go outside,” he said. “It’s well past time for the state to do something. These bills will help our law-enforcement community to finally stem the tide of violence that has washed over our state.”
Along with Rose, the legislative package was introduced by state Sens. John Curran, R-Downers Grove, Jil Tracy, R-Quincy, Steve McClure, R-Springfield and Brian Stewart, R-Freeport.