In a notably candid conversation last week at Forest Park’s village hall, state Rep. LaShawn Ford sat down with key village leaders to talk about a range of important issues. At the table were Mayor Rory Hoskins, Police Chief Ken Gross, Fire Chief Phil Chiappetta, Administrator Moses Amidei and four village commissioners.
We’ve long admired Ford as a sincere listener and able legislator. We’ve watched as his stature in Springfield has grown, his willingness to engage with the Republican minority has served him well, and his leadership in the Black Caucus has been rightly recognized.
Ford heard directly the concerns of village public safety leaders about persistent calls to the CTA terminals in town, which absorb costly resources of paramedics and police with no possible reimbursement. That conversation led to a follow-up meeting of the same group this week, after the Review’s print deadline, at the Blue Line terminus.
How to control rowdy funerals was another important local topic.
Most interesting to us though was Ford’s candor in a long conversation about the coming changes in state law as they relate to the end of the cash bail system on Jan. 1. This is a bold and necessary step in which Ford has played a key role.
The law, as passed and since amended, is still imperfect almost everyone would agree. More amendments are likely this fall. That’s good.
Chiappetta asked Ford why legislators acted so quickly and why there were not more discussions and negotiations with law enforcement before it was passed as part of the much broader state SAFE-T act.
Here’s where Ford was most direct and most correct.
Cash bail has been a linchpin of systemic racism in our criminal justice system forever. It plainly punishes people who are Black and Brown and poor. It plainly favors white people of means with the ability to hire solid lawyers and raise bail readily.
This is not a secret.
Ford’s explanation for why the Democrats in the legislature and Gov. J.B. Pritzker pushed this through is entirely accurate and illustrative of why criminal justice must be thoroughly reformed.
“If we didn’t pass something, we wouldn’t have gotten anything from law enforcement. We wouldn’t have gotten a serious conversation,” Ford told local leaders.
Now with cash bail as we have known it disappearing in 90 days, prosecutors and police are eager to talk. We hope they further fine-tune this law and bend it toward justice and safety.
None of this is easy as extreme voices in politics and media churn up lies and fears about what the current law will actually accomplish. The made-up “purge” and the fear-mongering on the loose right now are emblematic of the racism built into our law enforcement and our wider society.
That makes honest talk in Forest Park Village Hall all the more valuable and appreciated.