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Pritzker Discusses Police, Criminal Justice Reform In Springfield

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From left Rev. T. Ray McJunkins, Gov. J.B. Pritzker, Ald. Doris Turner, Ald. Shawn Gregory, and State Sen. Andy Manar gathered at Union Baptist Church in Springfield to talk about police reforms.

As protests against police brutality continue throughout Illinois, Gov. J.B. Pritzker said he’s working on police and criminal justice reform, and investment in communities of color with lawmakers.

Pritzker said he’s discussing licensing officers – an idea recently touted by Attorney General Kwame Raoul – among other policies, which might not please everyone.

“There’s some things that we’re going to end up doing that maybe the police won’t like,” he said at a meeting with black faith and community leaders in Springfield. “But what I can say is there is an important agenda here that needs to be pushed forward.”

He said he’s been having conversations with members of the Illinois Legislative Black Caucus, which hosted events to draw attention to proposals for police accountability and investment in communities of color. Members of the caucus have also called for a special legislative session to debate them.

At the meeting Tuesday, Pritzker praised young people for organizing recent demonstrations.

In attendance were three teenagers: Nykeyla Henderson, Nykia Henderson and Derrick Roberts, who planned protests and marches last week, as well as Sunshine Clemons, cofounder of Black Lives Matter Springfield.

Nykeyla Henderson said at the first rally last Monday they joined together to chant, shout and cry. She said the gatherings later in the week were filled with dancing and singing.

“You shouldn’t want to cry and be depressed every time we come to a protest,” she said. “(We’re) going to continue to bring the community together.”

Despite concerns about spreading the coronavirus, Pritzker joined a protest in the Chicago suburbs Monday. He said he understands the anger people feel that made them want to come together across the state.

“I’m not suggesting that was the safest thing for people to do to stay away from COVID-19. But people needed to express themselves,” he said. Pritzker said he still encourages social distancing rules, such as wearing a mask and staying six feet apart.

Rev. T. Ray McJunkins, who was at the Tuesday meeting, said reforms should start with the local community and elected officials.

“How can we capitalize on these numbers? We’ve got the attention of the people,” McJunkins said. “What can we set down with decision makers to do to… stamp out police brutality and racism?”

Mary Hansen is a reporter with NPR Illinois in Springfield. 

COVID-19 is a rapidly evolving story, and we are working hard to bring you the most up-to-date information. We recommend checking the Coronavirus Information Center for the most recent numbers and guidance.

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