IL bill would add $5 fee to traffic tickets to pay for police body cameras

From the Chicago Tribune (story by Kim Geiger):

Answering calls to equip police officers with body cameras after a series of officer-involved deaths across the country, Illinois lawmakers are pushing a plan to add a $5 fee onto traffic tickets to pay for the equipment while also setting statewide standards for how the cameras and the videos they capture could be used.

The measure, which cleared the Illinois House on Thursday, would expand police officer training to include topics like use of force. It would require an independent investigation of all officer-involved deaths and would make investigation reports part of the public record if an officer involved in a death is not charged with a crime.

Additionally, it would ban the use of chokeholds and create a database of officers who have been fired or resigned due to misconduct.

The legislation comes after a series of officer-involved deaths generated momentum around efforts to change the way police interact with the communities they serve. President Barack Obama recently formed a task force to study the issue, and its conclusions served as a blueprint for the Illinois bill, the sponsors said.

“What we are doing here is we are taking a proactive step … to ensure that things that are happening around the country do not happen within the borders of Illinois,” said sponsoring Rep. Elgie Sims, D-Chicago.

If enacted, Illinois would be the first state in the country to set statewide standards for the use of body cameras, Sims said. A similar effort is underway in California, but it has run into opposition from police and the state’s top attorney, who argue that individual departments should be left to develop standards on their own.

The bill would not require police departments to use body cameras. But those that do so would have to follow state rules, including a requirement that officers keep their cameras on when conducting law enforcement activities. Officers would be allowed to turn the camera off when talking to a confidential informant, or at the request of a victim or witness.

Recordings generally would not be subject to the state’s open records law, unless they contain potential evidence in a use-of-force incident, the discharge of a weapon or a death. Recordings would not be used to catch police committing minor infractions.

Bill requiring breath interlocks for five years for second DUI passes Illinois legislature, sent for Gov’s signature

House Bill 3533 has passed both houses of the Illinois legislature.  It would require that any person whose driver’s license has been revoked for a DUI and seeks either reinstatement or a driving permit would be required to drive with a breath ignition interlock device (BAIID) for five years.

The bill states in part:

The Secretary of State shall require the use of ignition interlock devices for a period not less than 5 years on all vehicles owned by a person who has been convicted of a    second or subsequent offense under Section 11-501 of this Code or a similar provision of a local ordinance.

Tribune Study: DUI roadblocks cost millions, yield meager results

roadblockcheckThe Chicago Tribune has been looking into the costs and benefits of DUI roadblocks, and they have discovered that Illinois spends millions of dollars on them and they result in few DUI arrests.

Here are some highlights from the story by David Rutter:

During the five years in question, Waukegan police spent $478,000 to nab 890 DUIs at the local checkpoints. That’s just 12 percent of the 7,672 citations issued at those pit stops. The vast bulk of those citations are for burned out taillights, insurance lapses, unbuckled seat belts and license violations.

Further, it means Waukegan police spent $537 to ring up each DUI arrest.

By comparison, Gurnee spent much less, but also got a much quieter bang for the bucks. Gurnee spent $56,000 for 42 DUI arrests, which constituted 4 percent of the 935 total citations.

None of the 200-plus jurisdictions studied statewide came off as models of efficiency in the statistics, but Lake County was particularly pale.

Several, such as Lake Villa, spent $1,000 for each DUI arrest.

Vernon Hills? It spent $2,356 for a goose egg. No DUIs, although officers there did issue four citations for other violations.

Among other departments:

Lake County Sheriff’s Department, $7,044 for 7 DUI arrests which was 6 percent of 123 citations.

South Barrington, $16,299 for 10 DUIs and 290 citations (3 percent).

Fox Lake, $11,995 for 4 DUI nabs among 212 citations (2 percent).

Lake Zurich, $50,988.58 for 76 DUI arrests, 11 percent of 807 citations.

Grayslake/Hainesville, $37,367 for 36 DUI arrests, 7 percent of 501 tickets.

Nobody did particularly well.

Sobriety checkpoints have become the most intrusive and expensive-to-run minor violation gotchas in the state.

Such checkpoints are intrinsically controversial, but the underlying presumption was not to boost local ticket income or even to arrest drivers. The idea was deterrence, although some jurisdictions announce where the checkpoints will be.

Drunken drivers perhaps take another route to avoid the checkpoint. But that’s not exactly deterrence. Being ticketed for a broken taillight does not make you more sober.

But catching any drunken driver is a good thing. I’m all for that. That’s hardly the issue.

The issue is whether giving a half million dollars for random road stops could have been spent better by Waukegan police.

The Supreme Court ruled that impaired driving is more dangerous than the risk to civil liberties posed by rousting innocent drivers without cause. So random checkpoints are legal.

But a dozen states — not Illinois — have decided to make them illegal.

As to the larger question of utility, police spokesmen insist that checkpoints have a positive effect on making roads safer.

No one can quite prove what that effect is.

Bill to decriminalize small amounts of marijuana and amend DUI-cannabis law passes both Illinois Houses

In addition to passing a major revision to the license reinstatement law, both the Illinois House and Senate have passed HB 218, which would make possession of 15 grams or less of marijuana a fine only violation, not a crime as it is now.

Now, how the average person would know whether they have 15 grams or less of marijuana on their person, I really don’t know.  The Chicago Tribune claims that it is the equivalent of 25 joints, but that is not an exact science.  What if you like to have a fatty?

Keep in mind that this law doesn’t prevent the police from arresting you and charging you for possession, pending a weight determination.  Also, testing positive for marijuana might cost you your job or revoke your probation.

The bill would also change Illinois’ DUI laws.  Instead of our current DUI laws, which makes it a DUI to have any amount of cannabis in one’s blood, breath or urine, regardless of actual impairment, including metabolite which can remain in a person’s system for a month or more after usage, the law would now require either actual impairment as a result of marijuana usage, or 15 nanograms or more of cannabis in a person’s blood.  Illinois will still remain a “zero tolerance” state when it comes to having any amount of another controlled substance in your system while driving, but it should be pointed out that cocaine and heroin leave a person’s blood system much faster than marijuana.

Bill to change law that requires lifetime license revocation for anyone with 4 DUI convictions passes Illinois House and Senate, awaits Governor’s signature

An important proposed law that would end the lifetime driver’s license revocation for anyone with 4 or more DUI convictions has passed both houses of the Illinois legislature.  If signed by Governor Rauner, the bill will become a law.

I have written about this law before.  Here is a quote from one of my earlier posts:

This proposal makes all the sense in the world.  It is much better to give people who have had multiple DUI convictions an incentive to undergo treatment and become abstinent than instead to discourage them and keep them from being able to support their families.  The rationale for keeping these people revoked the makes even less sense considering that we have BAIIDs and SCRAMS to test people to see if they have alcohol or drugs in their system.  And since Illinois has decided that it is better to give undocumented persons temporary visitor drivers licenses because we think it is better to have tested and insured drivers than unlicensed and uninsured drivers, doesn’t it make sense to treat revoked drivers the same way, assuming that they can demonstrate a lengthy period of sobriety and that they have learned and changed through an alcohol or drug treatment plan?

Here is the synopsis of HB 1446:

Amends the Illinois Vehicle Code. Provides a person with a revoked driver’s license, who is ineligible for restoration of the license because of certain prior violations including a 4th or subsequent DUI, may apply for a restricted driving permit 5 years after revocation or release from imprisonment, whichever is later. To be eligible for the restricted driving permit the person, must at a minimum, show by clear and convincing evidence at least 3 years of abstinence from alcohol and illegal drugs and successful completion of rehabilitative treatment. Any restricted driving permit issued to such a person must require operation of a vehicle equipped with an ignition interlock device. Provides the person shall not be eligible for a restricted driving permit if convicted of more than one violation of driving under the influence of drugs or an intoxicating compound. If the person issued a restricted driving permit is subsequently convicted of driving under the influence, the permit is revoked and he or she is permanently barred from acquiring a restricted driving permit. Allows a nonresident, who is ineligible for restoration of a license because of certain prior violations, to seek restoration of the license 10 years from the date of revocation. Makes it a Class 4 felony for a person with a restricted driving permit that requires operation of a vehicle with an ignition interlock device to operate a vehicle without one.

I will put up a new post when the Governor either signs or vetoes the bill.

How Federal Grant Money leads to many traffic stops in hopes of making a rare DUI arrest

Angela Caputo of the Tribune has another story (and sadly, once again blocked behind its paywall) that explores the wastefulness and poor policy choices that lead to DUI roadblocks and an increase in traffic stops in the hope of getting DUI arrests, even though only 3 percent of stops lead to a DUI arrest.

Here are some excerpts from the Tribune story:

For six years, police from north suburban Skokie outpaced most municipalities across the state when it came to citing drivers during federally backed drunken driving patrols. But just a small fraction were busted for driving under the influence.

On average, officers wrote 29 citations for every drunken driving arrest they made. That amounted to 3 percent of 14,000 citations logged. A Tribune investigation found that Illinois drivers — from Chicago and its suburbs to sleepy downstate communities — who are stopped during special DUI patrols and sobriety checkpoints are most likely to be cited for not carrying insurance, a broken taillight or other minor infractions, rather than drunken driving.

Skokie police hit their required ticket quotas and the department was awarded $853,000 worth of grant money, mostly to cover overtime pay to operate roadside sobriety checkpoints and other patrols. Across the state, 270,000 citations were issued through similar patrols, 93 percent of which were for offenses less serious than drunken driving.

Critics questions whether the low number of arrests that the Tribune identified through an analysis of state reports are worth the imposition on drivers pulled over without probable cause — particularly during sobriety checkpoints. They wonder if there are other motives for the special patrols such as raising ticket revenue…

The number of non-DUI tickets issued through DUI patrols and checkpoints, which are scheduled around peak drunken driving times mostly around holidays, is significant. In 2012, the state placed additional emphasis on seat belt enforcement as part of the DUI patrols and checkpoints.

Ten police agencies — led by Chicago, Skokie, Elgin, Will County, Waukegan and Illinois State Police — accounted for more than half, or 148,000, of all citations reported in Illinois during special DUI patrols and checkpoints from 2008 to 2013, an analysis of the most recent statewide records show. On average, 5 percent of the citations logged by those agencies resulted in a DUI arrest.

Within local departments, the rate of DUI arrests and costs varied.

Elgin police, for example, reported issuing virtually the same number of citations — more than 13,000 — as their counterparts in Skokie but arrested more than twice as many drunken drivers. Elgin Cmdr. Ana Lalley considered the department’s DUI arrest rate a success. The department spent, on average, $531 in federal grants per DUI arrest.

Will County sheriff’s officers recorded more than 10,000 citations and snared 715 drunken drivers, spending, on average, $1,120 in federal grants per arrest. In Waukegan, police reported issuing nearly 8,000 citations, 890 of which were DUI arrests.

Wheeling also made the top 10, charting nearly 7,000 citations, which led to 403 DUI arrests. The other agencies with the most citations were downstate.

Federal officials haven’t attached ticket quotas to the grant money for DUI crackdowns, but state transportation officials said they have adopted quotas as a “performance measure” to ensure accountability.
Last year, a commander from northwest suburban Des Plaines was convicted of padding DUI arrest numbers so the department could collect the federal grant money. At his sentencing hearing, his attorney attributed his actions to pressure to meet quotas.

Since then, ticket quotas have been abolished in Illinois with one exception: grant funded policing initiatives including the special DUI patrols. Most agencies are required to issue one citation every 60 minutes and make one DUI arrest for every 10 hours of patrol.

State Rep. Jay Hoffman, D-Belleville, said he co-sponsored the measure to eliminate quotas after hearing “horror stories of departments using traffic tickets as a revenue source.”

Tribune story highlights discriminatory pattern of DUI roadblocks by Chicago Police

The Chicago Tribune has a story today by Angela Caputo, (sadly, behind its paywall) about how most of the Chicago Police’s DUI “sobriety checkpoints” a/k/a roadblocks are done in minority neighborhoods such as Austin or Wentworth, not in white areas like Jefferson Park (which is, not coincidentally, also a neighborhood where a lot of police officers live).

This is despite the fact that there are four times as many alcohol related crashes in Jefferson Park than there are in Austin.

Here are some highlights from the story:

Chicago’s Jefferson Park police district is drawn around a leafy residential area on the Northwest Side, home to about one-fifth of the city’s police officers and their families. The district, which is predominantly white, also has one of the highest rates of drunken driving accidents and fatalities, but police haven’t set up a sobriety checkpoint there in more than five years.

Seven miles due south, Chicago police have announced 10 roadside checks over the same period in the Austin district, a hardscrabble stretch along the city’s West Side that is predominantly black and where there were four times fewer alcohol-related crashes than in Jefferson Park.

A Tribune investigation found that in Chicago, 84 percent of the roadside checks were scheduled in areas populated mostly by minorities while roadways in areas with more DUI-related crashes that are predominantly white are checked less often, or not at all. Federal guidelines suggest, however, that when choosing where to set up checkpoints, agencies should use objective criteria, such as a high incidence of alcohol-related crashes.

Of Chicago’s 22 police districts, nine are majority-black, five white, four Latino and four have no racial majority. From February 2010 through June 2014, the most recent period with complete data available, Chicago police scheduled 152 roadside sobriety checks. Of those, 127 were in black or Latino police districts.

Only six roadside checks were in the majority-white police districts. That’s less than 4 percent of the DUI checkpoints conducted citywide, even though those districts included 25 percent of the city’s alcohol-related accidents from 2010 through 2012, according to the Illinois Department of Transportation’s most recent records.

Of the four police districts that had no scheduled sobriety checks at all, three were predominantly white; the fourth had no majority race. No police district that was predominantly black or Hispanic had fewer than five sobriety checks…

The Tribune found that nearly 270,000 citations were issued through roadside checks and special DUI patrols across Illinois during the state’s fiscal years 2008 to 2013, the most current span for which Illinois records are available. Of those citations, 93 percent were for relatively minor traffic infractions or nonmoving violations…

The stepped-up DUI patrols have generated, on average, 445 citations each month in Chicago over six years. For every drunken driver arrested, nearly 20 other citations were written.

The data shows no clear indication that a high number of checkpoints equates to few alcohol-related crashes. Some police districts with few checkpoints also had few crashes. Some districts with several checkpoints also had a high number of crashes.

The Jefferson Park district did not have a roadside check from February 2010 through March 12 of this year, Chicago police said. The Tribune found no record or announcement of a checkpoint since March 12. Yet Jefferson Park ranked third among Chicago police districts with 162 alcohol-related crashes and fatalities from 2010 to 2012, a Tribune analysis of state traffic accident data found.

The Chicago police districts with the most alcohol-related crashes were, in order, Chicago Lawn, Grand Central, Jefferson Park, Ogden and Town Hall. Grand Central, Chicago Lawn and Ogden are majority Latino districts that had 13, 11 and eight roadside checks scheduled. Town Hall is mostly white and had two checkpoints.

Twelve roadside checks were announced in the Harrison district, a predominantly African-American area. The West Side district had 91 alcohol-related crashes, roughly half as many as the Jefferson Park district.

On the South Side, the Wentworth district had 11 roadside checks, despite ranking near the bottom in the city for drunken-driving crashes.

“Of course Jefferson Park is primarily white. A lot of police officers live there and a lot of judges live there,” said Richard Kling, a law professor at Chicago-Kent College of Law…

In Illinois, police departments received $20 million worth of federal grants to combat drunken driving over six years, mostly to cover police overtime. IDOT disburses the grants to municipalities across the state to pay for roadside checks and other DUI patrols. Local officials decide how to deploy officers.

IDOT requires most departments to issue at least one ticket for every 60 minutes of patrol and arrest one drunken driver for every 10 hours of patrolling…

Chicago police collected $2.5 million in grants, which shakes out to an estimated average cost of $1,590 in federal money per DUI arrest.

It’s money well spent, advocates say.

The money was used for at least some enforcement during 13 roadside sobriety checkpoints in the Grand Crossing police district, a predominantly African-American area on the South Side. That makes Grand Crossing tied for No. 1 among police districts for DUI checkpoints.

Grand Crossing also ranks No. 1 in fewest drunken driving incidents in Chicago.