In Illinois, police dispatchers can tip off criminals

koehler021314SPRINGFIELD – In 2010, the Illinois Supreme Court ruled that it's not a crime for a police dispatcher to tip off a criminal that law enforcement is on the way. The court called the case "troubling" and the defendant's actions "unjustifiable," but found nothing in Illinois law making such behavior illegal. State Senator Dave Koehler (D-Peoria) wants to change that.

"We have to be able to trust everyone in law enforcement to enforce the law," Koehler said. "Nothing erodes the public's trust in the government faster than a problem with the justice system."

The story starts in the Chicago suburbs. In 1998, a police dispatcher named Carmecita Williams tipped off a local drug dealer that law enforcement officials were in the area near his house. When Ms. Williams' actions came to light, the Cook County State's Attorney charged her with official misconduct. The trial court found her guilty and sentenced her to two years probation and 250 hours of community service.

However, Ms. Williams appealed the verdict. The appellate court ruled that nothing in Illinois law allowed her to be charged with official misconduct. The local police department had every right to fire her, but she hadn't broken any Illinois law. In 2010, the Supreme Court agreed.

Throughout the entire process, the courts had no doubt that Ms. Williams had tipped off the drug dealer.

Koehler's proposal would make it a Class 3 felony for a police dispatcher – or anyone in a similar position – to warn a criminal that law enforcement is nearby or on the way by expanding the definition of official misconduct to include this circumstance. The crime of official misconduct already covers a wide variety of corrupt acts by public employees, including accepting bribes and misusing one's authority for personal gain.

The penalty for a Class 3 felony is two to five years in prison.

Koehler's legislation, Senate Bill 2695, is currently waiting to be assigned to committee.

Category: Press Releases

ATV VermontPEORIA – Owners of all-terrain vehicles will be protected when using their vehicles on private property under a new law proposed by State Senator Dave Koehler (D-Peoria), chair of the Senate Agriculture Committee.

In 2012, the Illinois General Assembly passed a law to help finance the Department of Natural Resources through a series of new and expanded fees – part of an effort to keep the desperately underfunded agency afloat. However, after hearing from a number of ATV owners who believe the fees for all-terrain vehicles are unfair, Koehler began working with DNR to find a solution that ensures the agency gets the funding it needs while ATV owners get a better deal.

"The Department of Natural Resources plays a vital role in keeping state parks and wildlife areas open for Illinois families, and we need to make sure it has adequate funding," Koehler said. "But the 2012 law asked too much of ATV owners. We need to fix this problem."

The flawed 2012 law failed to differentiate between golf carts, vehicles used by people with disabilities and ATVs used in state and local parks and preserves. It also charged a flat fee for all ATVs, failing to differentiate between adult ATVs and vehicles used by children.

Koehler's plan (Senate Bill 2633) cuts the current $15 registration fee down to $10 for vehicles with smaller than 75 cc engines (normally used by children). It also provides clear exemptions for golf carts, vehicles for people with disabilities, ATVs used by governments and ATVs used by farmers. It clarifies that ATVs used only on a family's own property are also exempt, as are vehicles used only in ATV competitions.

In addition, DNR has pledged to use much of the money raised by the new fee to develop and maintain ATV trails on state property. This new money allows the agency to qualify for hundreds of thousands of dollars in federal matching funds.

"When ATV owners pay these fees, they should get something out of it," Koehler said. "New, improved, better maintained ATV trails will be a great family-friendly resource that should help raise the profile of Illinois' state parks."

Category: Press Releases

CANTON – State Senator Dave Koehler's district office director, Jennifer Allison, will be holding satellite office hours in Canton on Thursday, December 5. The purpose of the event is to allow local residents to discuss state-government issues in person without travelling to Peoria.

  • Location: City Hall, Director's room on lower level
  • Address: 2 North Main St., Canton, IL
  • Time: 9:30 to 11:30 a.m.

 

Senator Koehler's district office in Peoria is located at 400 NE Jefferson St., Suite 200. It is normally open from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday. Area residents who are seeking assistance can also call the district office at 309-677-0120 or the senator's Springfield office at 217-782-8250

 

Category: Press Releases

Koehler-tornadoFederal resources provided by disaster declaration (Updated 12/6)

President Obama's decision to declare Tazewell County and other areas affected by last month's tornadoes Federal Disaster Areas qualifies local residents for a variety of grants and low-interest loans. These include:

  • Grants of up to $32,400 for disaster-related needs not covered by insurance, including replacement of property, transportation and medical care.
  • Low-interest loans for homeowners of up to $200,000 to cover uninsured property losses of homes, vehicles, clothing and other personal property. Both homeowners and renters can qualify for low-interest loans of up to $40,000 to replace damaged or destroyed personal property like clothing, furniture, appliances and vehicles.
  • Federal crisis counseling, unemployment assistance and legal aid for issues like income tax, Social Security and veterans benefits.
  • Low-interest loans of up to $2 million for private businesses and not-for-profit organizations to replace or repair damaged real estate, machinery and other business assets.

 

To apply, call 1-800-621-3362, visit www.DisasterAssistance.gov or visit m.fema.gov from your tablet or smartphone. Be sure to have your Social Security number (and your spouse's if applicable) and private insurance information available. If you want disaster assistance funds sent directly to your bank account, have your account number and routing information available.

You can also visit the Disaster Recovery Center located in East Peoria for one-on-one assistance applying for state, local and federal aid. It is located at Festival of Lights East Peoria Illinois at 2200 E. Washington St. The center will be open from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. until further notice.

FEMA job opportunities (Added 12/17/)

The Federal Emergency Management Agency has partnered with the Illinois Department of Employment Security to offer temporary, full-time positions related to disaster assistance in the areas devastated by November's tornadoes. These positions are open to local residents and include positions in administration, writing and public information, television/radio broadcast production, planning, individual disaster assistance and logistics.

To apply, visit IllinoisJobLink.com and search for FEMA in the keyword search box. All applicants must be at least 18 years old and possess a high school diploma or GED. Applications are being accepted through December 19.

Food assistance for disaster victims (Added 12/9)

Starting December 11, disaster victims whose unreimbursed storm-related expenses or loss of work due to the storms has reduced their incomes below a certain level may qualify for food assistance under the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (formerly Food Stamps). Individuals who already qualify for SNAP may be eligible for additional assistance if they meet the program requirements.

For more information, contact the Tazewell County Department of Human Services Family Community Resource Center, located at 200 S. 2nd St., Suite 20. The office phone number is 309-347-4184.

Open burn in East Peoria (Added 12/9)

The city of East Peoria is allowing open burning of tornado-related landscape waste through December 15. Note that burning building and construction materials is not allowed. You must obtain a permit first, and all normal open burning rules apply.

Visit the city's website for more information.

Salvation Army (Added 11/19)

The Salvation Army has been supporting relief efforts by setting up mobile canteens for survivors and rescue workers. To donate to support their efforts, call 800-SAL ARMY, click here or mail a check made payable to "Salvation Army" clearly marked "November Tornado Relief" to 401 NE Adams St., Peoria, IL 61603. You can also text GIVEHEART to 80888 to make an automatic $10 donation.

Illinois Treasurer's Office

The Illinois treasurer's office can provide low-interest disaster recovery loans to residents, business owners and farmers who are waiting on insurance settlements or other aid programs to take effect. (For example, declaring a federal disaster area, which makes residents eligible for a wider variety of loans, can take time.)
The loan must be used to pay the cost of repairs and expenses arising directly from the disaster.

For more information, email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or call the treasurer's Disaster Recovery hotline at 866-523-0641.

Illinois Department of Insurance

The Department of Insurance has a handy fact sheet about what you should do and what you should expect from your insurance company when dealing with disaster recovery. Knowing the facts is an important way to avoid missing opportunities. The fact sheet is available here.

As the fact sheet notes, one of the most important parts of the recovery process is selecting a reputable contractor. Con artists known as "storm chasers" often go door-to-door after major storms offering to repair homes. They frequently do a shoddy job or simply steal money or property. For more information about avoiding storm chasers, visit the National Storm Damage Center's website.

Illinois Environmental Protection Agency (Added 11/21)

Disposing of debris and waste can be a major concern after a disaster of this magnitude. The Illinois Environmental Protection Agency has put together a fact sheet explaining how to dispose of wreckage, complete with phone numbers of experts who can address common concerns. Read it here.

Red Cross (Updated 11/25)

You can donate to the Red Cross' disaster relief fund by clicking here, calling 800-RED CROSS or texting the word REDCROSS to 90999 (automatic $10 donation). For more information, call the Central Illinois Chapter of the Red Cross at 309-677-7272.

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Contact Info

Springfield Office:
M113 Capitol Building
Springfield, IL 62706
(217) 782-8250

Peoria Office:
400 NE Jefferson, Suite 200
Peoria, IL 61603
(309) 677-0120