SPRINGFIELD — State Senator Kwame Raoul (D-Chicago 13th) reminded Illinoisans that the start of the new year will bring sweeping, positive changes to the way law enforcement and the criminal justice system accomplish their vital work. On Jan. 1, 2016, several landmark justice measures, including long-awaited standards for the use of police body cameras, will take effect.

“For far too long, our criminal justice system has reinforced racial disparities and provided poor outcomes for taxpayers, ex-offenders, families and communities alike,” Raoul said. “We are finally seeing a bipartisan movement to examine and, when necessary, overhaul law enforcement, sentencing and corrections practices so they’re fair and they work.”

Raoul sponsored and secured passage of a major policing reform measure in May. Changes in the law that take effect in the new year include

  • Establishing minimum policies and standards for the use of body cameras by law enforcement agencies that choose to deploy the uniform-mounted devices
  • Requiring an independent investigation of all officer-involved deaths and creating a mechanism for the appointment of a special prosecutor in sensitive cases, including alleged police misconduct
  • Prohibiting the use of chokeholds by police
  • Expanding mandatory law enforcement officer training to include cultural competency, implicit bias, the proper use of force and interacting with sexual assault victims and persons with disabilities
  • Requiring officers to issue a “stop receipt,” including the officer’s name and badge number, to a pedestrian stopped for any reason
  • Creating a database of officers who have been dismissed due to misconduct or resigned during a misconduct investigation, so rogue cops aren’t hired unknowingly by other departments

On Jan. 31, 2016, a task force assembled under the new law is scheduled to submit its recommendations on licensing police officers in Illinois for added accountability.

Raoul, who serves on the governor’s Commission on Criminal Justice and Sentencing Reform, also sponsored two important juvenile justice laws that will take effect Jan. 1.

One will eliminate all automatic transfers of children charged with crimes from the juvenile system to adult criminal courts and give judges greater discretion to decide the best setting for trying and sentencing minors based on the particulars of each case. Another will prevent juveniles from being committed to Department of Juvenile Justice facilities for misdemeanor offenses. It also ensures that no minor will be confined to a DJJ facility for longer than an adult would be incarcerated for the same offense.

“Whether it’s a young African-American man encountering a police officer on the street, a mother concerned about her children’s safety on the walk to school or an ex-offender trying to turn his life around and support his family, we are working hard to achieve the American dream of equal access to safety, security and justice,” Raoul said. “As the Commission continues its task and as both lawmakers and the public become more aware of the disparities and shortcomings in our criminal justice system, I’m confident we’ll see additional policies enacted to supplement the major reforms poised to take effect.”

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When I learned that a video of Laquan McDonald’s final moments was to be released to the public, I knew that many would fear its impact, remembering the self-destruction oppressed communities elsewhere have experienced following acts of police brutality and excessive force.

I believe we can do better in Chicago. But I am not calling for calm. There’s nothing to be calm about. Instead, I’m calling for sustained, focused, constructive outrage that demands full accountability but doesn’t destroy community.

Because of legislation I advanced earlier this year, we now have legal protocols in place that mandate independent investigations of police-involved deaths, expose the misdeeds of rogue cops so they don’t quietly move from one department to another, require improved officer training on bias and the use of force and establish funding and standards for the use of body cameras.

But I know it’s not enough.

Everyone responsible in this atrocity – not only Officer Van Dyke, but any individual who participated in a cover-up that delayed justice for Laquan McDonald and his family – must be held accountable. We should direct our outrage toward asking our local prosecutor whether it would have taken 13 months to resolve this case if the video had shown a civilian committing the same act. We should ask why Office Van Dyke was still on the beat after 17 public complaints were filed against him and the City paid half a million dollars to settle allegations that he had used excessive force. We should question the ability of Chicago’s independent police review authority, which has recently come under scrutiny from the Better Government Association, to do its job with integrity. And as we call on our neighbors to abandon the no-snitch code, in our outrage we demand the same of law enforcement.

Watch the video. Don’t be destructive. But don’t be calm.

Pensions stock photoSPRINGFIELD — State Senator Kwame Raoul (D-Chicago 13th) issued the following statement in response to Comptroller Leslie Munger’s announcement today that the State of Illinois will skip its required November pension payment of $560 million:

 

Illinois’ sorry history of skipping payments to its pension systems has made its unfunded pension liability the highest in the country. The state has used its pension funds like credit cards to fund essential services because of a persistent unwillingness to face the fact that revenue isn’t keeping pace with the needs of its people.

I had hoped that by now, we all could at least agree that continuing to skip pension payments is not an option. Instead, we learned today that Comptroller Munger does not intend to make the state’s November pension payment on time.

On Aug. 18 and again on Aug. 28, the comptroller told a judge it would be “impossible” for her office to make court-ordered payments to providers of disability services. Yet, threatened with contempt of court, she found a way. Earlier in the fiscal year, Comptroller Munger and the Rauner administration claimed they could not pay for early intervention programs, but those services are now being funded. Today, the comptroller stated that “for all intents and purposes, we are out of money now.” Which is it? This has the feel of a manufactured crisis that is nonetheless all too real to its victims: single parents unable to work because they can no longer afford child care, low-income women waiting for cancer screenings that could save their lives, homeless youth, at-risk teens with no place to go but the streets and many more.

We have a revenue problem – not a Democratic revenue problem, not a Republican revenue problem, but everybody’s problem. It’s time to end the sideshow and stop trying the same tricks that have held our state back for decades. We were able to come together and get creative about funding our priorities for Fiscal Year 2015. I challenge my colleagues on the right to answer this question: Have those priorities changed? Are Illinois’ needs less urgent? If not, then we must focus on funding them while also meeting our pension obligations.

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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Wednesday, August 12

 

99thGALogo webSPRINGFIELD — State Senator Kwame Raoul (D-Chicago 13th), State Representative Elgie Sims (D-Chicago 34th) and Rep. John Anthony (R-Morris) were pleased to announce that a landmark law enforcement reform package they negotiated has become law. The groundbreaking, bipartisan measure includes standards for the use of officer-worn body cameras and makes Illinois one of the first states to codify recommendations issued this year by President Obama’s Task Force on 21st Century Policing.

“In a political climate not known for its abundance of bipartisan cooperation, we nevertheless built strong support on both sides of the aisle and from the governor for a package of reforms that demonstrate a serious commitment to restoring trust between law enforcement and communities,” said Raoul, who has worked since last year on body camera standards and other reforms. “This pioneering law is a response to recent officer-involved deaths but also a public acknowledgement that communities are only truly safe for all their residents when police and the people they serve can trust one another. We know there is much progress to be made on that front, and that was the impetus for the changes enacted today.”

“Police encounters gone tragically wrong in Ferguson, New York City, Baltimore and elsewhere forced the nation to confront uncomfortable realities about race and policing in America, and here in Illinois, lawmakers on both sides of the aisle felt compelled to take action to address the disparities and restore trust,” Sims said. “Independent investigations, better training and better record-keeping will foster an atmosphere of seriousness about tackling racial disparities in law enforcement and zero tolerance of police misconduct.”

“It was a privilege to work with law enforcement as well as community groups to negotiate this trailblazing piece of legislation,” Anthony said. “Most law enforcement officers have a genuine desire to serve and protect all residents of their communities fairly, and they welcome tools, such as body cameras and the officer misconduct database, that can help them do their jobs more effectively.”Policing reform presser cropped

Senate Bill 1304 implements numerous recommendations of the federal task force by

  • Requiring independent investigations of all officer-involved deaths
  • Improving mandatory officer training in areas such as the proper use of force, cultural competency, recognizing implicit bias, interacting with persons with disabilities and assisting victims of sexual assault
  • Creating a statewide database of officers who have been dismissed due to misconduct or resigned during misconduct investigations
  • Improving data collection and reporting of officer-involved and arrest-related deaths and other serious incidents
  • Establishing a Commission on Police Professionalism to make further recommendations on the training and licensing of law enforcement officers

The legislation also prohibits the use of choke holds by police and expands the Traffic Stop Statistical Study, which provides insights into racial disparities in vehicular stops and searches, to include pedestrians whom officers “stop and frisk” or temporarily detain for questioning. Finally, it codifies rules concerning the appointment of special prosecutors.

The new law does not require law enforcement agencies to deploy officer-worn body cameras, but if they choose to do so, they must adhere to the following standards:

  • The cameras must be turned on at all times when an officer is responding to a call for service or engaged in law enforcement activities.
  • The cameras can be turned off at the request of a crime victim or witness, or when an officer is talking with a confidential informant.
  • Recordings are exempt from FOIA with some exceptions:
    • Recordings can be “flagged” if they have evidentiary value in relation to a use of force incident, the discharge of a weapon or a death.
    • “Flagged” recordings may be disclosed in accordance with the Freedom of Information Act; however, in certain sensitive situations, such as a recording of a sexual assault, victim consent is required prior to disclosure.
    • Recordings must be retained for 90 days or, if “flagged,” for two years or until final disposition of the case in which the recording is being used as evidence.

SB 1304 also creates a competitive grant program for departments to obtain money toward purchasing the cameras. The grants, as well as the legislation’s additional training requirements, will be funded by a $5 increase in fines for traffic violations.

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99thGALogo webSPRINGFIELD — State Senator Kwame Raoul (D-Chicago 13th) secured Senate passage today of legislation that builds on past workers’ compensation reforms, streamlining and modernizing the operations of the Workers’ Compensation Commission and making state law more easily understandable by codifying the interpretations and standards of the Illinois Supreme Court.

“The major reforms I sponsored in 2011 are working, with Illinois posting a 20 percent drop in recommended rates and the nation’s largest decrease in the average medical payment per claim,” Raoul said. “While we continue to monitor the situation to ensure these results are passed on to businesses in the form of lower premiums, we are also making reforms that help the system work more efficiently and with greater clarity for employers and employees alike.”

Senate Bill 162, which now goes to the House for its consideration, authorizes the Commission to replace an obsolete computer system and requires employers and insurers to accept electronic claims by the start of 2017. It creates an ombudsman position to help injured workers file their own claims and provide information and assistance to employers and health care providers. It also codifies case law interpreting the standards used to determine whether an injury is compensable through the workers’ compensation system.

“The governor’s office has supported many of these changes, and I believe this legislation represents firm common ground on workers’ compensation,” Raoul said. “I would urge the governor and my colleagues to take these steps to make the system more accessible to both workers and employers and then to allow the 2011 reforms to continue improving Illinois’ business climate while still protecting workers.”

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State Sen. Kwame Raoul new 'it guy' in Springfield

Chicago Tribune

For more than a year after he was appointed to fill then-U.S. Sen. Barack Obama's seat in the Illinois Senate, Kwame Raoul did all he could to avoid contact with his predecessor.
He would not call Obama for advice unless he absolutely had to. He skipped public appearances where the two might run into each other or, worse, be photographed together.
"I had a sense early on that people, probably including Barack, were concerned about whether I was trying to coattail on his success," Raoul said. "And I was really sensitive about that."
Nearly seven years later, Raoul finds himself the new "it guy" in Springfield. He has led high-profile Democratic pushes to ban the death penalty, reform pensions, overhaul the state's workers' compensation system and redraw legislative boundaries.
Even some Republicans want a piece of him. House Republican Leader Tom Cross appeared with Raoul last month to promote legislation that would require schools to adopt policies regarding concussions and head injuries for athletes.
"People think I am crazy," said Raoul of his workload, which he says sent him to the hospital twice in the last year with stress-related heart arrhythmia. "I don't want to just be down there saying, 'I'm a senator.'"
The 46-year-old son of Haitian immigrants first became interested in politics while an undergrad at DePaul University during the Council Wars in the 1980s. After Mayor Harold Washington's unexpected death, Raoul joined thousands of protesters outside City Hall as aldermen held a tumultuous meeting that eventually saw Eugene Sawyer chosen as mayor.
Raoul, who wanted then-Ald. Timothy Evans as mayor, wound up being hours late for his job as a bill collector so he could pass out "No Deals" signs at the rally.
"I subsequently got fired from a job I wasn't very good at and didn't like, but I remember going home and watching the council proceedings and thinking, 'Wow, we've got to do better than this.'"
Raoul twice ran and lost for alderman against Toni Preckwinkle, who's now the Cook County Board president. She eventually became an ally and backed him for Obama's state Senate seat in 2004 — against Obama's wishes at the time.
Raoul has a law degree from Chicago-Kent College of Law and a year ago went to work in the Chicago office of Michigan-based Miller Canfield. The firm, which also employs Paul Durbin, son of U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., is serving as an underwriters' counsel on a $3.5 billion bond sale the state issued in January 2010.
Raoul said he's never made any calls to help the firm secure state business and voted present Wednesday on a bill that would provide tax credits for Continental Tire, which he said the firm represents. The bill passed.
"I try to be careful and make sure the firm isn't doing anything that could get me in trouble," said Raoul, who added that he is learning about municipal financing so he can help towns and cities with bond deals.
Raoul's signature achievement was pushing through a death penalty ban that few expected to pass.
"I was very surprised when he told me he had enough votes," said Senate President John Cullerton, D-Chicago. "And that's because it was a very individual, personal type of vote. Those type of bills come along once in a career."
For now, Raoul said he plans to run for his Senate seat next year.
"There's a lot of room out there to serve. I don't want to be one of those people that is trying to hold on to power beyond my time," said Raoul, who added he's not worried if he loses. "For me there's enough stress, there's enough time away from my kids and family."