BLACK CAU­CUS AGENDA FO­CUSES ON CRIM­I­NAL JUS­TICE RE­FORM AND PO­LICE AC­COUNT­ABIL­ITY

Chicago Sun-Times - - TOP NEWS - BY RAY­MON TRON­COSO Capi­tol News Illi­nois is a non­profit, non­par­ti­san news ser­vice cov­er­ing state gov­ern­ment and dis­trib­uted to more than 400 news­pa­pers statewide. It is funded pri­mar­ily by the Illi­nois Press Foun­da­tion and the Robert R. Mc­Cormick Foun­dati

SPRING­FIELD — The Illi­nois Leg­isla­tive Black Cau­cus re­leased its agenda of “sweep­ing re­forms” meant to ad­dress sys­temic racism in the state at a news con­fer­ence Tues­day.

The agenda is fo­cused on four pil­lars of pol­icy: crim­i­nal jus­tice re­form, vi­o­lence and po­lice ac­count­abil­ity; ed­u­ca­tion and work­force de­vel­op­ment; eco­nomic ac­cess, eq­uity and op­por­tu­nity; and health care and hu­man ser­vices.

State Sen­ate Ma­jor­ity Leader and cau­cus chair Kim­berly Lightford opened her re­marks at the news con­fer­ence by not­ing, “This is the mo­ment that I have dreamed of, that I have prayed for, that I have worked to­wards my en­tire life.”

“This is a time when I stand on my par­ents’ shoul­ders, and their par­ents’ shoul­ders, and their par­ents’ shoul­ders and their par­ents’ shoul­ders,” she said. “We’re fi­nally here … to­day as the Illi­nois Leg­isla­tive Black Cau­cus, to present to you our agenda to end sys­temic racism that has op­pressed our peo­ple for as long as we’ve ever known.”

The news con­fer­ence fo­cused on the first pil­lar as the cau­cus em­pha­sized a need for end­ing mass in­car­cer­a­tion, en­act­ing po­lice re­form and strate­gi­cally in­vest­ing and redi­rect­ing state fund­ing to re­duce vi­o­lence in Illi­nois com­mu­ni­ties.

“We re­spect, ad­mire and honor our of­fi­cers. But leg­isla­tively, we must ad­dress bad ac­tors and racism in law en­force­ment,” Rep. Justin Slaugh­ter, D-Chicago, said. “Here in [Chicago], Blacks make up 75% of the CPD shoot­ings, 30% of the pop­u­la­tion — come on now.”

The news con­fer­ence was held at the West­side Jus­tice Cen­ter, a Chicago-based le­gal aid clinic that pro­vides le­gal as­sis­tance to low­in­come and un­der­served com­mu­ni­ties in the city.

Bren­dan Shiller, civil rights at­tor­ney and founder of the Jus­tice Cen­ter, noted the more than 500 mur­ders in Chicago this year.

“We have a flood of pain com­ing to our com­mu­ni­ties over the next sev­eral months and cou­ple years,” he said. “We know how to stop the flood, we know how to stop crime and vi­o­lence. It’s ed­u­ca­tion, it’s health care, it’s hous­ing, it’s men­tal health, it’s jobs, it’s youth recre­ation — this ain’t a se­cret!”

Ac­cord­ing to Shiller, af­ter Chicago had 771 recorded mur­ders in 2016 — the most since 1996 — a siz­able in­vest­ment into youth em­ploy­ment that cre­ated 40,000 more jobs in 2017 led to de­creased crime the fol­low­ing three years.

Lightford also an­nounced a se­ries of hear­ings to dis­cuss each pil­lar of their agenda that would con­tinue un­til law­mak­ers re­turn for the fall veto ses­sion.

The first such hear­ing took place shortly af­ter the news con­fer­ence Tues­day, with the Sen­ate Crim­i­nal Law and Spe­cial Com­mit­tee on Pub­lic Safety hold­ing a joint hear­ing on po­lice train­ing and the use of force.

The hear­ing stretched be­yond three hours and was at times con­tentious.

Dis­cus­sion re­gard­ing pun­ish­ment for of­fi­cers who vi­o­late use-of-force standards and end­ing qual­i­fied im­mu­nity for cops were tabled for later hear­ings so that train­ing, hir­ing and ac­count­abil­ity prac­tices would re­main the fo­cus of the hear­ing.

In­di­vid­u­als from the Amer­i­can Civil Liberties Union and the Univer­sity of Illi­nois at Chicago gave con­flict­ing tes­ti­mony to that of the In­ter­na­tional As­so­ci­a­tion of Chiefs of Po­lice in re­gard to ap­pro­pri­ate use of force and on racism and white supremacy in­fil­trat­ing po­lice depart­ments.

They also dis­agreed on the de­gree to which the “Blue Wall” — an al­leged phe­nom­e­non where of­fi­cers will not re­port other of­fi­cers who have bro­ken the law or en­gaged in gross mis­con­duct — is a prob­lem in law en­force­ment.

All par­ties agreed on the need for more data, with many not­ing it is prob­lem­atic that re­port­ing on use of force varies for each de­part­ment and ju­ris­dic­tion.

“We must pri­or­i­tize trans­parency, and be­lieve me folks, I have looked for the re­search, looked for the data. A lot of it sim­ply is not there be­cause we have not de­manded and re­quired that po­lice depart­ments through­out this state is­sue that data and sub­mit those re­ports,” Slaugh­ter said at the news con­fer­ence.

While none of the pil­lars of the agenda have been filed as leg­is­la­tion yet, Lightford said bills would be ready for the fall leg­isla­tive ses­sion.

“We will have our leg­isla­tive ini­tia­tives pre­pared for the veto ses­sion, and we do in­tend on tak­ing up all of veto ses­sion to ad­dress them,” she said.

The leg­isla­tive lead­ers of the Demo­cratic Party is­sued state­ments back­ing the ILBC.

“The Black Cau­cus is show­ing us the path to a bet­ter Illi­nois. I look for­ward to be­ing an ally and help­ing win ap­proval of needed re­forms,” Sen­ate Pres­i­dent Don Har­mon said in a news release.

House Speaker Michael Madi­gan, D-Chicago, pledged to work closely with the mem­bers of the cau­cus “to bring about eq­uity in the lives of Black Illi­noisans.”

“WE’RE FI­NALLY HERE … TO­DAY AS THE ILLI­NOIS LEG­ISLA­TIVE BLACK CAU­CUS, TO PRESENT TO YOU OUR AGENDA TO END SYS­TEMIC RACISM THAT HAS OP­PRESSED OUR PEO­PLE FOR AS LONG AS WE’VE EVER KNOWN.” STATE SEN. KIM­BERLY LIGHTFORD

AP FILE PHOTO

State Sen­ate Ma­jor­ity Leader and Black Cau­cus Chair Kim­berly Lightford

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