(The Center Square) – Illinois Attorney General Kwame Raoul announced Wednesday his office’s first investigation of policing practices in the state under the authority of a state law that went into effect in July.
The investigation is the first undertaken by the office under investigative powers provided under a package of police reform laws passed earlier this year as the SAFE-T Act, Raoul said
A sweeping criminal justice reform bill, opposed by numerous police organizations, was signed into law this year. It requires, among other things, police body cameras by 2025 and expands instances in which officers can be stripped of certification.
The measures restricts police on how they use force, including the use of rubber bullets and stun guns.
Raoul announced Wednesday that his office had started a civil rights investigation into the practices of the Joliet Police Department. He said every police department should be reviewing its procedures.
“I don’t think it is unique to one jurisdiction,” Raoul said. “I think it is a continuous exercise that all police departments as well as all other law enforcement agencies should be engaging in.”
The Attorney General’s office said it will examine the Joliet Police Department’s policies, practices and supervision related to traffic and pedestrian stops, searches, arrests and the use of force.
The investigation follows a request by Joliet Mayor Bob O’DeKirk and members of the Joliet City Council to look into the death of Eric Lurry, a 37-year-old Black Joliet resident who died after being put in the backseat of a Joliet police car in January 2020.
According to the Marshall Project, the push to hire more police officers is gaining ground. President Joe Biden’s administration recently announced that cities can use part of the $350 billion American Rescue Plan relief money to hire more offices to combat gun violence. Cities, big and small, are jumping on the offer, with claims that their police departments are running out of officers.
Illinois is seeing a turnover in police chiefs. The top cops in five major Illinois cities announced plans to leave within the past year, whether it be to retire or take another position, including in Springfield, Champaign, Peoria, Bloomington and Decatur.
“I think all police departments have been in a process of looking in the mirror and looking at how they can improve their process of working towards constitutional policing,” Raoul said.