Illinois’s new SAFE-T Act is going lenient on criminals – and that’s bad news for our police officers

I’m really trying to figure out what Illinois officials are thinking when it comes to their newly passed SAFE-T act.  SAFE-T stands for Safety, Accountability, Fairness and Equity-Today, and it has a number of provisions in place that make things a little more lenient in certain areas for defendants and criminals.

Here are a couple of examples. First off, defendants are no longer immediately considered flight risks, no matter what the crime may be. Furthermore, those that wear some sort of electronic monitoring have a 48-hour window in which they can leave home before they’re charged with a violation.

There are others as well – in fact, quite a few. Franklin County Sheriff Kyle Bacon actually went over quite a few of them, explaining to Fox News, "Trying to sift through a thousand pages to determine where our role is and what's going to change and how we can best serve the citizens that we protect has been first and foremost for us."

Think about that for a second. Illinois police are already going through a world of hell with their prolonged shifts and shortages in ranks, either by retirement, straight-up leaving or even suicide. But now, on top of that, this newly passed set of laws will have them reworking procedures almost entirely, all for the sake of giving defendants and would-be criminals more leniency.

“We’ve spent a lot of time trying to prepare for what’s coming,” Bacon noted at the time of the SAFE-T Act’s passing. But in order to do this, he’s had to go through "what feels like hundreds of hours of training and discussion” to figure things out. That could’ve been time better spent on, well, anything. Talking to your fellow officers about mental preparedness. Trying to figure out programs that can actually benefit citizens of the state. Anything but working your way, line by line, over these new provisions that seem like a gigantic pain.

Illinois State Capitol, where the Act was enacted into law

Photo credit: Daniel X. O’Neill CC BY 2.0 license

Now, there are some things that didn’t go through on the bill, including pre-trial release and bail reforms, both of which were shut down by the Supreme Court. But that didn’t stop city officials from passing the rest and creating a world of nuisance for those that wear the badge.

See, here’s the thing. SAFE-T may seem like it’s put in place to assist criminals, but in fact, it’s not giving them the proper time needed to learn their lesson. The big problem with this is, well, say you’ve got a drug addict. And he or she is arrested for doing something drug-related. Rather than taking the time to rehabilitate and attempt to get clean, the SAFE-T act allows them to be freed a lot quicker – and then it’s right back to the drugs, provided they don’t have any sort of counseling assigned at the time of their release.

Bacon noted, "there's not a drug offense other than one involving a firearm or a high-level drug offense that is detainable.  Not to mention criminals that, thanks to the Act, can now conveniently fly out of the city if needed, or even “get away” for 48 hours without any retaliation. I don’t know about you, but there’s a lot I can do in 48 hours. Imagine what someone with a criminally based mind can do.

Honestly, I don’t think Illinois put enough thought into the SAFE-T act. There are some things that I can imagine would make sense, like making non-violent trespassing more of a minor offense than an arrestable one. But you never know when a situation like that will turn violent and when an officer will be ill-prepared for it.

We’ve already seen a number of lawsuits knock down some of the rules that Illinois was trying to pass with SAFE-T. But it’s concerning to see what more could come from it, especially as officers feel the strain from it. That’s something those officials should have taken into consideration.

To sum up, don’t think SAFE-T has officers’ safety in mind.

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