“I’m flabbergasted;” New bill proposal would require bachelor’s degree for officers

Local News

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (WCIA) — A bill proposed by Rep. Jaime Andrade (D – 40th District) would require police and corrections officers to have bachelor’s degrees with majors or minors in social work in order to move from probationary to permanent officers.

He filed it February 22, the same day Governor J.B. Pritzker signed a sweeping criminal justice reform bill into law.

Some law enforcement officials are worried this legislation doesn’t reflect the realities of the job.

Champaign County Sheriff Dustin Heuerman, who holds a master’s and doctorate, says he’s not opposed to higher education.

“But we’re always talking about diversity,” he said. “We’re always talking about how we want our police departments to look like our communities. And then I also think about how it’s easier for some to get college education than others. It seems like a balancing act. Do we want diversity? Or do we want to only employ as police officers those who can afford to get an education on their own?”

Champaign County Board Member Emily Rodriguez has served on the Champaign Citizens Review Board. She called the legislation Pritzker signed into law “a monumental success.”

As for Andrade’s separate bill, she says, “I think that there might be a reason why this was not included in the original package.”

She believes it takes a different kind of education to improve police-community relations.

“I think the source of knowledge should come from the community itself,” Rodriguez says. “So I’m not sure what what programs could be in place. But overall, what I see is a lack of understanding of the history of neighborhoods.”

“I don’t want people to get the impression that we don’t need to change,” Heurman says. “We do need to change. But is giving preference points for a bachelor’s degree with social work in your hiring process a better way to start out with this as opposed to mandating that somebody has this?”

WCIA reached out to Andrade for comment. He has not responded.

To learn more about the bill, click here.

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