Interview of David Parsons part one

CD Menard, Lenses Writer

About a year ago, police groups, including the Illinois FOP, heard that legislation on police reform would take place in Illinois.  They asked to have a seat at the table, and work towards reforms that benefited both police and the general public.  Some reforms that these groups advocated for include:

  • Mandatory body-cams – which help protect the officer, as well as the general public
  • An expedited process to remove bad officers from their duties
  • More training in ground fighting, to help safely and effectively restrain combative subjects

David Parsons and the organization he has represented, have consistently maintained that the group of “people who want bad officers gone the most are good police officers.”  No good police officer wants to work alongside someone who is a danger to themselves, their colleagues, and the general public. 


In accomplishing this goal, it has been important that every officer has been entitled to due process, just like every other member of the general public.  Despite the admirable goals of the police association groups, these organizations, which represent police officers who would be most affected by this legislation, were not given a seat at the table to help craft the legislation.  


Instead, the police advocacy groups were only allowed to listen in on the hearings and their microphones were muted the entire time.  Mr. Parsons, the head of the FOP Legislative Committee reported, “We had the ability to listen in on the hearings, but we were muted out.  We were not allowed to give our thoughts on any of this.”  No valuable insight that could be provided by these groups was allowed to be heard.  The Illinois FOP then discovered, without notification, that this legislation, which would radically change law enforcement along with the judiciary and legal systems,  was introduced, within the lame-duck session just a week later.  Mr. Parsons describes it as “600 pages of just horribleness.”  The FOP, as well as other groups, have continually contacted legislators asking them to postpone this legislation, so they could have a seat at the table, but the Illinois Black Caucus, along with other democrats (in both houses of the Illinois legislature) have refused, and would not engage in constructive dialogue with these groups.  


David Parsons also stated that this is not, and should not be a party issue.  “This is not left versus right, conservative versus liberal.  This is about a bill that just went off the rails.  There is some really bad stuff in [this bill].  What upsets me is that even for private citizens… it hurts them.”  As an example, people that illegally trespass and refuse to leave your property cannot be made to leave by police.  Chairman Parsons said: “[Currently] If someone is trespassing on your property, we (the police) come and say, “you’ve been told to leave, and if you refuse to do so, then you can be arrested.”  Now, with the new bill, there is nothing we can do, we can just say “here’s your ticket, see you in court” and they can just stay on your property”.  “We can tell them to leave, but if they choose not to leave, there is nothing we can do… there is a lot of stuff like this in the bill.”  Essentially, what this means is that someone could come into your backyard, pitch a tent, scream at you non-stop into the night while blaring ballistic music, and they could not be removed. 


In addition to denigrating personal property rights, the proposed legislation, which awaits JB Pritzker’s signature, violates people’s U.S. constitutional rights as well.

Parsons said: “We used to have a set process for use of force, one that could be followed and understood by officers, but they tore that all to heck.  (Stipulated in this bill) Before an officer can fire their weapon, they have to tell the person “I’m going to shoot you”.  Well, when a person draws down on you, you don’t have the time to say that.  If you take the time to stop and say that, you are dead… (This bill,) it’s horrible.”  The Supreme Court has repeatedly reaffirmed that the right to self defense is endowed in the constitution, and has never said that the right to self defense has a caveat: that one must inform one’s attacker that one will be defending oneself.  If an officer defended himself, according to HB3653, he could be charged with a felony.  Additionally, the state of Illinois had already passed a ban on chokeholds, but now, the state has changed the definition of chokehold to just about any contact over the shoulders.  It also has removed the portion of the law which stated that chokeholds may be used only in self-defense or defense of another, specifically, in a situation where a suspect grabbed the officer’s gun.  David Parsons said this is “just one example in this law, where they have written such a horrible bill, that there are things in there that are just simply unconstitutional… The big problem is, that an officer is going to have to incur a lot of legal fees to push this into a federal court, to get it outside of Illinois, and that is what we are very worried about… who is going to pay the legal bills for those officers?… It will bankrupt that police officer.”  


Another negative aspect of the bill is the supposed “Bail Reform” portion, which will mandate that people arrested for many violent crimes will not be allowed to be held before trial.  David Parson understands and supports sensible bail reform, reforms which ensure, for example, that individuals committing non-violent low level offences, who should not be held in custody before trial are not held.  Parsons’ articulated, “we should work on that”.  However, this bill does the opposite of what is sensible.  Continuing to reference impacts of HB3653, Parsons stated, “When you have someone who has committed a violent crime, they get sent right back out, and then they go attack the person that called the cops.  That is a real problem.”