Cook County officials are pushing legislation that would require police to allow arrestees three completed phone calls within an hour of their detention.
Failure by police to provide the phone calls would be considered “official misconduct” — a class three felony punishable by up to five years in prison.
Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle, County Public Defender Amy Campanelli and others unveiled the proposed legislation at a press conference Tuesday.
“If a person is hospitalized, among the first steps taken is to notify the emergency contact,” Preckwinkle said. “An arrest is no less disruptive to a person’s life.”
State Rep. Theresa Mah said she was sponsoring the bill, along with Rep. Justin Slaughter. As of late Tuesday afternoon, no bill had been posted to the Illinois General Assembly website. Jordan Abudayyeh, spokeswoman for Gov. JB Pritzker, said “the governor looks forward to reviewing the legislation.”
Current Illinois law guarantees people the right to call a family member or attorney within a “reasonable” amount of time from when they are first taken into custody. But Cook County Public Defender Amy Campanelli said that frequently does not happen.
“This vagueness of what is reasonable should not be left to interpretation by the police,” Campanelli said.
According to an informal study conducted by Campanelli’s office last year, just 30 percent of arrestees were offered a phone call before they were interrogated by police. Campanelli and others argue that is one reason why so few arrestees have legal representation when they’re interrogated. A study done by First Defense Legal Aid, an advocacy group that seeks to provide attorneys to people in police custody, found only 1.5 percent of Chicagoans had a lawyer present during interrogations last year.
Chicago police union spokesman Martin Prieb said in a statement that the legislation would make processing arrestees “extraordinarily cumbersome and the investigation of crimes even more difficult.” Police Department spokesman Anthony Guglielmi said the department will not comment until it reviews the legislation.
Preckwinkle is running to be Chicago’s next mayor; WBEZ reached out to all other mayoral candidates about this policy. Most didn’t respond. John Kozlar wrote that the move was “just another calculated strategy by Toni Preckwinkle to distract voters from her machine style, pay-to-pay politics.” Candidate Lori Lightfoot pointed out that in April 2016, the Police Accountability Task Force that she chaired recommended that the Chicago Police Department be required to provide a phone call to arrestees within an hour of their arrest.
“A large community of criminal justice reform and policing experts and advocates have been fighting this fight for years, and only now is Toni Preckwinkle pushing legislation,” Lightfoot said in a statement.
Preckwinkle defended her record on criminal justice, pointing out a number of other reforms she’s tackled in her time as Cook County Board president including reforms to bond court.