November 20, 2008
SPRINGFIELD (Nov. 20)—One of the UTU’s most important legislative initiatives is headed toward the finish line after both chambers of the Illinois General Assembly passed union-sponsored amendments designed to reform the Illinois Railroad Police Act.
Senate Bill 620 passed the State Senate by a vote of 33-16 today, one day after passing the House by a vote of 64-44. An earlier version (HB 5159) had passed both chambers in May, but the House and Senate versions differed slightly in their language, requiring that both chambers vote again on concurring language acceptable to both.
“We now have concurrence between the two houses,” said Ass’t. Legislative Director Bob Guy, who shepherded the bill on its tortuous, year-long journey from House to Senate and back again.
“The bills passed in both chambers now have identical language.” Guy said. “The measure passed in both chambers twice, so there obviously are large numbers of legislators in each house who feel it’s necessary.”
Guy said the legislators approved the bill because the union had made it clear to them that railroad police departments needed to be brought under a means of independent, objective oversight like civil police departments. If the bill is signed by the governor, a citizen or employee who believes he has been subject to abuse of railroad police will have the right to an independent review by the Illinois State Police.
The State police will review the carrier’s investigation for thoroughness and objectivity and may conduct an investigation of its own. Guy said the measure not only would protect railroad employees against railroad-police abuse but would protect railroad police officers themselves from being misused by management.
“We have nothing against individual railroad police officers,” Guy said. “Most are very professional and they are essential to the protection of the carrier’s property. Our concern is how railroad managers choose to utilize their specially granted police powers. By providing independent oversight, the reform language will protect those officers, citizens and employees alike, ensuring an objective, open and honest process.”