Chicago, IL – Cook County lawmakers have unveiled proposed legislation that would require law enforcement officers to provide suspects with three phone calls within one hour of their arrest.
Failure to do so could result in police officers being charged with a felony official misconduct offense, punishable by up to five years in prison, WBEZ reported.
During a press conference on Tuesday, Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle said that being arrested is “disruptive to a person’s life,” and that they should quickly be provided with the opportunity to “notify [their] emergency contact,” according to WBEZ.
Under the current law, arrestees must be allowed to contact their attorney “within a reasonable time after arrival at the first place of custody,” Cook County Public Defender Amy Campanelli said, according to the Chicago Sun Times.
According to a survey conducted by the public defender’s office, less than 30 percent of arrestees said that they were given the opportunity to make a phone call before they were questioned by police, Campanelli said.
“The vagueness around what is reasonable should not be left to the interpretation by the police, especially when we know that their interpretation of the law, for decades, has not been reasonable at all,” Campanelli said.
The proposed legislation, sponsored by Chicago Democratic Representatives Theresa Mah and Justin Slaughter, would also require police to post signs alerting suspects to their right to place three calls to a lawyer, family member, or acquaintance.
Preckwinkle said the bill is but a portion of the overall push for criminal justice reform, and that it is intended to gain “compliance from our own Chicago Police Department and police departments in our region,” the Chicago Sun Times reported.
The Chicago Fraternal Order of Police (FOP) criticized Preckwinkle and her support of the bill in a press release on Wednesday.
“It is troubling the lengths to which Ms. Preckwinkle will go to fulfill her political aspirations by vilifying the police, and the lengths she will go to avoid addressing the evidence that such vilification is false,” the FOP wrote.
The union referred to the proposed law change as a “virtual advertisement for public defenders and defense attorneys,” and said that threatening police with a five-year prison sentence is “ludicrous.”
“This proposed legislation…would make processing offenders extraordinarily cumbersome and the investigation of crimes even more difficult,” the FOP continued.
“Offenders are advised of their right to remain silent and their right to have an attorney present before they are questioned,” the statement read. “Now officers have to provide them with not only one phone call but three within an hour, and if they don’t they will be charged with a crime?”
The union argued that there is “overwhelming evidence of corruption in the wrongful conviction movement,” and noted that the distrust between police and public officials who share Preckwinkle’s views has contributed to “historic lows” in resolving murder cases.
“With legislation like this, those resolution rates would likely drop even more,” the union said. “We call on the state legislature to reject this bill.”