A pair of Central Illinois state lawmakers aim to help DCFS workers protect themselves.
50th District Senator Steve McClure and 99th District Representative Sandy Hamilton have filed new legislation designed to help increase protection for Department of Children and Family Services employees following the murders of two employees in recent years.
McClure has filed Senate Bill 4165 in the Senate and Hamilton has filed identical legislation as House Bill 5688 in the House. The bills would allow DCFS employees to carry mace or pepper spray for defensive purposes while investigating child abuse and neglect.
McClure and Hamilton were joined by several retired DCFS workers for today’s announcement. McClure says the bills are a common-sense step to help them stay safe while performing what is an incredibly important job.
“It is truly tragic that so many DCFS employees have faced and continue to face threats every day. These workers need to be able to do their jobs. Pepper spray or mace are commonly used defensive items that many people choose to carry every day all across this state, it’s perfectly legal for them to carry it. DCFS employees currently are not allowed this same right while they are on the job. This bill will end that prohibition and make sure that employees who choose to carry pepper spray know how to do it safely.”
The legislation is in response to the murders of two DCFS investigators. Deidre Silas was stabbed to death in January at a home in Thayer during the course of an investigation.
In February of 2018, Pamela Knight died in the hospital from injuries sustained during a brutal attack that occurred while she was trying to take a child into protective custody.
Representative Hamilton, who was a real estate broker prior to being appointed to fill the 99th District seat following the resignation of Mike Murphy, says to her, it’s a sad reason that they were gathered at the podium today.
“To make a law to protect our state workers, and to get them out into the field and be protected when they are doing their job. And I talked to Senator McClure a couple of days ago and said you know in my profession, and I’m not trying to compare similar situations, but in my profession going out in the real estate world in the field and showing a vacant house and not being able to be protected. I have on several occasions carried mace under my armpit, in my pocket because it is scary out there and especially when you are going into and knocking on a door and you don’t know what is behind that door.”
The employees would be required to complete a short training program from the Illinois State Police on the proper use of pepper spray. McClure says although there may be some reworking of the bills needed, they have a lot of support.
“AFSME is fully in support of the bill. I spoke to DCFS this morning, they don’t like the current language but they are willing to work with me and I’m going to be meeting with them soon. As Senator Turner pointed out, the Illinois State Police are willing to do the program, they are willing to work with DCFS to do this if the bill has passed. I spoke to the Governor’s Office this morning as well and the Governor’s Office is still reviewing the language and they are going to get back to us as soon as far as their position.”
Hamilton says the measures are the right thing to do so that those who are working to protect abused children can also have at least one tool to protect themselves in these situations.