Police Reform and Kane County

When a public servant does the right thing he or she deserves the public’s support. Kane County Sheriff Ron Hain has received a lot of attaboys for some of the work he is doing in Kane County since his election in 2018. There is plenty of press and social media coverage on what he’s done well. I recently interviewed him for a piece in the Kane County Bar Association’s bi-monthly magazine, and there I too gave him the credit he deserves for his work.

On the eve of a vote on some LONG OVERDUE reforms to policing in Illinois Sheriff Hain has staked out a position that is grossly out of step with the progressive, reform-minded rhetoric and achievements he is credited for to date.

The pending legislation seeking to create long overdue reforms to policing is reasonable. It is based on many years of experience, data, and the input of a wide range of stakeholders, not the least of which are individuals representing communities that have borne the brunt police misconduct over many decades. Sheriff Hain’s representation recently on social media (screenshot above) that this legislation would have a “profound impact on your safety in the public and destroy the morale, even careers, of your dedicated local law enforcement” is fear-mongering at its worst.

The pending legislation will have a profound impact on our safety – this is true. If passed it will enhance our safety over time as the reforms take hold. The legislation will not erode our safety.

Once enacted this legislation will hold bad peace officers accountable for misdeeds. The goal is hold the so-called “bad apples” accountable. If in doing so it results in them also voluntarily leaving the profession then it would seem be working well.

Peter Hanna, an attorney adviser to the ACLU of Illinois recently testified before the House Judiciary Committee (Sunday, January 10, 2021) and during his testimony he made this very point. He said (paraphrasing) that if some individuals find that the burden of being held accountable for violating another person’s constitutional rights seems too onerous, then perhaps it is best that he or she not become a peace officer.

The reforms will not harm dedicated and law-abiding peace officers any more than laws against insider trading harm stockbrokers or laws against stealing clients’ funds harm lawyers, and so on.

In his social media post Sheriff Hain used resources from disreputable sources, and then when called to account, swapped out the resource for one that is a shill for the status quo. The following are better resources:

Chicago Appleseed Center for Fair Courts’ analysis of the Illinois Criminal Justice Omnibus (HB 163)

Washington, DC’s Experience with No-Cash Bail

Understanding Qualified Immunity

I hope Sheriff Hain continues to expand on the good work he has begun in Kane County. This post is in no way intended to call his character into question. He is a public official leading a vital public service entity comprised of public servants and it is necessary to ensure that the record is set straight on these important issues.

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