Illinois lawmakers continue to push forward with policing reforms.
A recent bill out of the Illinois General Assembly seeks to amend the Police Training Act to make social work degrees mandatory for officers.
The bill, proposed by Rep. Jaime Andrade (D-Chicago), requires officers to have a bachelor’s degree with either a major or minor in social work to be eligible to become a full-time officer.
According to Central Illinois Proud News, the measure is getting mixed reviews from law enforcement. Tazwell County Sheriff Jeff Lower said that only 25% of his department has a bachelor’s degree or equivalent.
“It’s not the education that makes the person. It’s the person. It’s the hiring practice [and] the vetting of their history. My belief is that it’s the hiring practice that makes a difference- not the degree,” he said.
On the other hand, Nathan Hastings, deputy sheriff of the Tazwell County Crime Prevention Unit, said the progressive bill could benefit officers when dealing with people with mental health issues.
“With individuals that deal with mental health issues or a crisis, it allows us to have a better understanding of what that individual is going through,” he said.
However, Lower is concerned that increasing the requirements will further reduce applications during a record low police shortage.
The bill also provides that police departments offering tuition reimbursements allow officers with prior education to retroactively receive tuition reimbursements if they qualified for financial aid at the time.