A recent amendment to the Illinois Constitution may provide a loophole for law enforcement to escape some of the SAFE-T Act provisions affecting police officers, according to a local sheriff.
“Unintended consequences normally go against law enforcement when legislation comes along,” Jefferson County Sheriff Jeff Bullard, a former member of the Illinois Fraternal Order of Police Labor Council, told Fox News. “But now there’s an unintended consequence with the new government union amendment to the state constitution.”
“It states that language in a collective bargaining agreement now will trump state law,” Bullard said.
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Illinois’ new criminal justice reform law, the SAFE-T Act, includes provisions like streamlining the process to revoke an officer’s license, allowing the investigation into anonymous complaints against officers and banning the destruction of police misconduct records. But law enforcement is interpreting a recent amendment to the state’s constitution to mean that police unions can rework their contracts to overrule the SAFE-T Act, the sheriff said.
“We are researching that language,” Bullard told Fox News. “We are looking at working with all stakeholders involved to come up with proper language that will protect our corrections officers or deputies or criminal justice employees from things that we see in the SAFE-T Act that are still bad.”
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“The SAFE-T Act requires unsustained and sustained complaints to remain in employees’ personnel file for their entire career,” Bullard said. “Hopefully through this research … the union contract can be strengthened to say that there’s expungement periods for progressive discipline based on the seriousness of the misconduct and that there won’t be public dissemination without a court order.”
The sheriff worries that opening police files to the public could result in officers having their reputations unfairly smeared. A cop, for example, could be scrutinized for having 25 complaints in their public file, even if only three of those were sustained, he said.
“Disciplining police officers based on anonymous complaints … that violates the constitutional rights of a police officer who has the right of due process to face their accuser,” Bullard previously told Fox News. “A police officer is not a lower-class citizen.”
He hopes these types of provisions can be stopped through collective bargaining in accordance with the state’s Workers’ Rights Amendment. The amendment, voted into law on Nov. 8, prohibits state laws from interfering with union agreements made between employers and labor organizations.
The SAFE-T Act — which one mayor called “America’s most dangerous law” — went into effect Jan. 1. The Illinois Supreme Court paused one of its major provisions — the elimination of cash bail — after a lower court ruled it unconstitutional.
The Illinois Fraternal Order of Police Labor Council, the Illinois Council of Police, the Metropolitan Alliance of Police and the Illinois Police Benevolent and Protective Association did not respond to Fox News’ request for comment.
To watch the full interview with Bullard, click here.