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State lawmakers could arrest, detain citizens under new bill in Illinois

Aurora Illinois Police Department patrol cars. (Aurora Illinois Police Department/Facebook)
March 16, 2021

Proposed legislation in Illinois could give members of the General Assembly the ability to arrest and detain individuals like a law enforcement officer, according to House Bill 724.

On February 8, Illinois State Representative Curtis J. Tarver II introduced the bill that includes requirements that assembly members be “conservators of the peace”, giving them the same powers as law enforcement.  

“After receiving a certificate attesting to the successful completion of a training course administered by the Illinois Law Enforcement Training Standards Board as required under Section 10.5 of the Illinois Police Training Act, all members of the General Assembly shall be conservators of the peace,” the proposed legislation read, which also adjusts the Illinois Police Training Act to include a “conservators of the peace” training course.

“Those persons shall have the power (i) to arrest or cause to be arrested, with or without process, all person who break the peace or are found violating any municipal ordinance or any criminal law of the State,” HB 724 read.

The proposed law would allow assembly members “to commit arrested persons for examination” and “detain arrested persons in custody over night or Sunday in an safe place or until they can be brought before a proper court.”

The proposed legislation does not detail the standards lawmakers would follow to determine if someone should be committed or detained overnight.

The bill also gives assembly members “all other powers as conservators of the peace prescribed by State and corporate authorities.”

C.D. Davidsmeyer, a Republican State Representative in Illinois, said the bill would undercut the extensive training of law enforcement and argued that the legislation would give lawmakers more power than police, the Journal Courier reported.

“Under the new reform bill, even police can’t contain someone unless it’s an immediate threat,” Davidsmeyer explained to the Journal.

“The only training lawmakers have is being on the ballot and being elected,” he continued.

The Illinois Sheriffs’ Association (ISA) also expressed concerns with the legislation.

“HB 724 would certainly seem to blur the line between the Legislative and Executive branches of government to now allow members of the General Assembly to have enforcement powers,” ISA President Jim Kaitschuk told The Police Tribune. “This bill seems to fly in the face of requirements for law enforcement, especially at a time when police are expected to receive even more training than the currently required 560 hours from the basic law enforcement academy and the annual mandated training that we receive.”

“In addition, members of the General Assembly maintain immunity while performing their duties,” Kaitschuk continued. “Would they maintain their immunity [under HB 724]?”

Jacksonville Police Chief Adam Mefford echoed Kaitschuk’s concerns, adding that the bill would blur the lines between lawmakers and law enforcement.

“What’s concerning to me if we’re supposed to have separation of powers,” Chief Mefford explained. “It doesn’t look like a very good idea to me.”