[Fox News] Illinois ending cash bail a ‘backdoor’ defund movement that will spark police exodus: experts

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Illinois enacting a law that ends cash bail is a “backdoor way” to defund law enforcement and will likely spark a police exodus as officers ask why they should even bother arresting people, according to retired law enforcement officials who spoke to Fox News Digital.

“No one is looking at the victim side of this or the law enforcement side of this. We have politicians that think that bail is racist against the underprivileged. But it’s not. This is the legislative backdoor way of defunding the police,” retired Fulton County Sheriff Sgt. Donald “Ike” Hackett said. 

The Illinois Supreme Court ruled July 18 that the elimination of cash bail did not violate the state constitution, which will allow the law to proceed and take effect on Sept. 18 after legal pushback from law enforcement and prosecutors. Once it is enforced, judges will not require suspects charged with crimes to post bail in order to leave jail while they await trial. Suspects deemed a threat to the public or those who are likely to flee can still be required to remain in jail.

The ruling came as a shock to retired Riverside Police Chief Tom Weitzel, who said he had believed it would at least be partially overturned. Now that the law is all but set in stone, he’s anticipating an exodus of law enforcement from the state who either ditch the profession completely or move to other states that embrace the full extent of law and order.

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“You’ll see an exodus. You’re going to see less people coming into the profession. And you’re also going to see … the minute [officers] can get the minimum pension, they’re going to be out the door. That is a big problem,” Weitzel told Fox News Digital.

Weitzel argued that law enforcement in the state who are looking to leave will likely find jobs in states “that have [a] reputation to support law enforcement, and I’m talking about their citizens and politicians.”

“Chaos” will also likely unfold after Sept. 18, especially in the jurisdictions of more suburban police departments as officials iron out how to operate under the new law, Weitzel said.

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“You’re going to see a lot of dissatisfaction in the job, and you’re going to see police officers say, ‘Why even bother?’” Weitzel said. “So, you go to a fight, a fight in the street, where you usually would arrest somebody for battery, or you would charge somebody with a driving offense … you’re going to be like, ‘Why should I even do this? Why should I even stop this person? Why should we even make the arrest?’”

Hackett, who serves as the secretary for the Illinois Fraternal Order of Police, agreed with Weitzel’s argument of a likely exodus, telling Fox News Digital, “We’re deeply concerned about [a] mass exodus.”

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“Everyone has to understand that any time that a man or woman who comes into law enforcement and raises the right hand and takes the oath, their main purpose is to serve and to protect the people who reside in their communities and the citizens that they come in contact with,” Hackett said.

The state legislature, however, has removed “that purpose to serve and protect,” he said. He argued that when police respond to 911 calls after Sept. 18, they will no longer be able to protect law-abiding Americans asking for help as many suspects will get to bypass jail ahead of trials, which will subsequently lead to “discouragement” among law enforcement.

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Hackett added that eliminating cash bail also cuts revenue streams to programs that support victims. He said that revenue from bail is $300,000 in some counties, which is often used to pay for crime victims funds or domestic violence funds, which were established to “to reduce the financial burden imposed on victims of violent crime and their families,” according to the Illinois attorney general’s website that details the state’s Crime Victims Compensation Program.

Hackett pointed to an incident this month in Fulton County, where an 18-year-old recently released from custody on his own recognizance for domestic battery charges allegedly attacked a 14-year-old boy in Lewistown.

The victim was left with “two jaw fractures, fractured orbital, five broken ribs and numerous scrapes and bruises,” according to Hackett. The sheriff’s office could not comment on the specific medical condition of the minor, telling Fox News Digital they could only confirm the teenager “sustained significant injury, required more in-depth medical care at a trauma center, and those injuries resulted in surgery.”

“This is what cashless bail will bring,” Hackett said.

Police and sheriff departments across the nation were gutted in 2020 and the following years as calls rang out from coast to coast to defund the police after the murder of George Floyd at the hands of police in Minnesota. Illinois was no different, with resignations and retirements spiking by 29% in 2021 when compared to 2020, according to a survey of Illinois Association of Chiefs of Police members published in Police1.

The elimination of cash bail, which is part of the 2021 criminal justice reform bill called the Safety, Accountability, Fairness and Equity-Today (SAFE-T) Act, was set to take effect in Illinois on Jan. 1, but it was met with fierce legal pushback from dozens of sheriffs and prosecutors in the state who said the law was unconstitutional, diminished public safety and put law enforcement at risk.

The law was left in legal limbo after a Kankakee County judge ruled in December that the law was unconstitutional, and the state Supreme Court announced it would hear appeals for the case. 

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Politicians and activists in the state have championed the law as one that would help unravel an allegedly biased and racist judicial system that they said unfairly targets minorities in the state. The governor’s office said last year that the elimination of cash bail “creates a more equitable system where pre-trial detention is based on community risk rather than financial means.”

“I’m pleased that the General Assembly has passed clarifications that uphold the principle we fought to protect: to bring an end to a system where wealthy violent offenders can buy their way out of jail, while less fortunate nonviolent offenders wait in jail for trial,” Democrat Gov. J.B. Pritzker said in a press release after the signing of the SAFE-T Act. “Advocates and lawmakers came together and put in hours of work to strengthen and clarify this law, uphold our commitment to equity, and keep people safe.”

When asked about retired law enforcement officials sounding the alarm that the end to cash bail will lead to an alleged exodus of police, Pritzker’s office directed Fox News Digital to the governor’s statement that celebrates the state Supreme Court ruling in favor of the law.

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Weitzel, Hackett and law enforcement officials across the state are sounding the alarm against this law and have argued that bail is a necessary tool to maintain law and order – no matter the color of a suspect’s skin.

“A lot of the things that are in the SAFE-T Act come from advocates that are anti-police,” Jefferson County Sheriff Jeff Bullard told Fox News in January. “Law enforcement leaders are really taxed not to align themselves with this thinking, not to think that there’s compromise when there’s a group of people that just believe that cops are racists, that cops are murderers, that cops are all these ugly things.” 

Weitzel said bail was established to “ensure you’re going to be in court in the future” and that local leaders and activists “kind of hijacked that and made the public think that ‘Oh, you know, we shouldn’t hold people in custody at all if they haven’t been found guilty or pled guilty.’”

Police and sheriffs are currently working with prosecutors and other officials to figure out the new framework established by the law and how to proceed with arrests and carrying out law and order in the state.

“We can’t look into a crystal ball and tell how this is going to play out,” Hackett said when asked what law enforcement can expect after Sept. 18.

“There are people that need to go jail, and they’re not going to go to jail. And it will only take them 24 to 48 hours to realize, ‘Hey, I can do a lot of things now and not suffer the consequences that they need to suffer.’”

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