Yesterday, the General Assembly passed HB 3653 – a comprehensive reform addressing several areas of criminal justice and policing. While this bill changes many aspects of law enforcement, our focus has been on how it affects the Police Training Act, which directly affects the Board.
Most significantly, it establishes a process that allows the Board to seek decertification for misconduct that does not rise to the felony conviction level. Under this bill, the Board will receive complaints from agencies, state’s attorneys, and the public addressing instances of criminal conduct, perjury, evidence tampering and other unprofessional conduct. If, after investigation, these complaints are founded, the Board will conduct a hearing and go before a newly created Certification Review Panel to determine if decertification is warranted.
As of 2022, certificates will be divided into active, inactive, and decertified status. Officers who are no longer employed as police officers will have to go through a special process to reactivate their certificate upon being rehired. Officers will also have to self-report their compliance with all training mandates every three years. Failure to report may result in inactivation.
This measure also provides for greater transparency by requiring the Board to maintain a public portal on our website to search officer agency affiliation and certification status. Chiefs and Sheriffs will still have access to the Professional Misconduct Database, but this too will be streamlined and made more accessible, as hiring entities must review these entries before initiating the employment of a new officer.
New mandates related to use of force, officer wellness courses, and crisis intervention response were added to the basic and in-service training requirements as well. Staff is already working on ways to implement these changes to be ready for the January 1, 2022, effective date. While this bill requires “crisis intervention training” at the basic academy and as part of the annual in-service mandate, we believe these can be covered by intro and overview courses, leaving the Crisis Intervention Team (CIT) course as a volunteer, specialized certification.
The bill also requires all agencies to begin using body cameras over the course of the next five years. We anticipate that this will increase demand for our existing camera grant program and have asked that funding for this program be increased. Similarly, we have asked for our appropriations to be increased and funding secured to accommodate the increased trainings and duties associated with processing certification verifications, investigating statewide complaints, and seeking the decertification for reported misconduct. We trust that in the upcoming months, discussions on this topic will be fruitful.
While we understand that there are several items of concern in the underlying legislation, we remain focused on the Board’s role in ensuring that Illinois’ law enforcement community has the training and resources to better serve the people of this State.