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Local News

Will County area members of Congress back policing reform bill

U.S. Reps. Bill Foster (from left), Lauren Underwood and Dan Lipinski were among the House members who voted for the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act on Thursday.
U.S. Reps. Bill Foster (from left), Lauren Underwood and Dan Lipinski were among the House members who voted for the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act on Thursday.

Three Democratic members of the House of Representatives backed the passage of a bill aimed at addressing a wide range of concerns over law enforcement practices.

The George Floyd Justice in Policing Act passed in the House, 236-181, on Thursday with overwhelming Democratic support. Among the Democrats who voted for the bill were three members representing parts of Will County: U.S. Reps. Bill Foster, Lauren Underwood and Dan Lipinski.

The bill would limit legal protections for officers, create a national database of excessive-force incidents, ban police from using chokeholds and no-knock warrants in federal drug cases and require the creation of law enforcement accreditation standard recommendations, among other changes.

Underwood, D-Naperville, said in a statement that the act begins to address “serious flaws in our policing systems.” She grounded the need for such sweeping reforms in the many demonstrations across the country calling for change in the wake of multiple high-profile deaths of Black people at the hands of law enforcement.

“Thousands of Illinoisans have taken to the streets, in the middle of a deadly pandemic, to demand our attention,” Underwood said in her statement. “It is Congress’s job to deliver policy solutions that answer this call for change.”

Foster, D-Naperville, released a statement saying that he is proud the House took up a bill that includes “meaningful” reforms to enhance accountability for “abusive” police officers.

“It is past time for us to take these first transformational steps to achieve structural change in our criminal justice system and combat police brutality,” Foster said in the statement.

Lipinski, D-Western Springs, also voted for the legislation but took a more measured approach in responding to calls for reform. Although he said in a statement that the bill was a “good first step” in bringing meaningful changes, he argued it had some flaws.

“As we consider the details in legislation making reforms to policing, we must make sure that we consider the short- and long-range impacts,” Lipinski said in the statement.

Lipinski said more policies are needed to recruit and train diverse, “top tier” candidates to become officers. He said that he fears some new policies might discourage “good people” from entering or staying in law enforcement.

Lipinski also said he feels provisions limiting police departments’ access to military equipment are “overly broad” and might prevent them from being adequately resourced.

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