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Our Fight to End Systems of Police Impunity

Throughout Illinois, powerful union contracts shield police officers from investigations of alleged misconduct and abuse. Local police unions, like Chicago’s Fraternal Order of Police (FOP), have negotiated watertight municipal agreements that are engineered to obstruct nearly any effort to regulate departments or hold individual officers accountable for criminal acts. Many of these measures are also mirrored in Illinois statute.

Impunity provisions in police contracts and state law are a key driver of racialized officer brutality and corruption. Armored by unjust contract protections, police officers are often emboldened to exceed the limits of their powers with the assurance of virtual immunity.

Earlier this month, the Workers Center for Racial Justice (WCRJ), in partnership with Representative Carol Ammons, introduced state legislation to outlaw police contract measures that obstruct open investigation of alleged officer misconduct and thwart efforts to enact meaningful police reform. HB 5830 would restore the intended purpose of collective bargaining rights, by limiting police union agreements exclusively to matters of compensation and wages. The proposed legislation would also repeal sections of Illinois law that echo police contract impunity provisions.

Workers' rights to collectively bargain are a vital mechanism for ensuring equity and justice in our labor system - and by extension, throughout our society as a whole. And yet, for nearly half a century, politicized unions, like the FOP, have worked in bad faith to undermine the rightful intentions behind these powers. In municipalities across the state, police unions weaponize bargaining rights as a means to evade accountability for officer wrongdoing and perpetuate systems of racialized police violence, abuse, and corruption.

Historically, when unions have exploited collective bargaining powers to advance ulterior ends outside the scope of labor rights, the law has intervened. For example, in decades past, when workers' unions negotiated racially exclusionary contract terms, the courts ruled these activities to be unlawful.

Amid recent, heightened calls for racial justice across the U.S., Washington D.C. unanimously passed an ordinance to restrict police unions from including impunity measures in collective bargaining agreements. It is now incumbent upon Illinois and other states to enact corresponding legislation to remove impediments to officer accountability and systemic regulation of police departments.

For more information about HB 5830, please contact us directly.

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