A measure to allow Illinois Department of Children & Family Services frontline workers to carry pepper spray to protect themselves has been signed into law.
Governor J.B. Pritzker signed Senate Bill 1486 on Friday. The measure was chiefly sponsored by 50th District State Senator Steve McClure, who introduced the measure after Deidre Silas was murdered in Thayer while doing a home visit for endangered children in January. Another DCFS worker, Pamela Knight, also died in February 2018 after she sustained injuries in a beating while attempting to take a child into protective custody at a home in Milledgeville.
McClure says this measure will hopefully prevent another death and protect DCFS workers in the line of duty: “This is a significant piece of legislation that I think is going to save somebody’s life at some point. To me, it was incredibly ridiculous that DCFS workers were not allowed to protect themselves with anything. This gives them something to protect themselves with, and adds a training that will be done in consultation with the Illinois State Police as to how to use pepper spray in emergency situations and how to defend themselves in other situations. It’s significant for both of those reasons.”
McClure also co-sponsored an aggravated battery enhanced penalty bill in the Senate this Spring. The bill would have enhanced penalties in the courts if someone were to become violent with a DCFS worker in their official capacity similar to laws that already exists for police, firefighters, and nurses. McClure says it was a draft of a previous bill that had passed in the House a few years ago. However, the current bill passed the Senate this time but not the House. McClure says he will be attempting to bring up the bill again at future General Assembly sessions.
McClure says at least with the pepper spray bill now moving into law, it will give DCFS workers an extra line of defense in the line of duty. McClure says he’s unsure if it would have saved Silas or Knight’s lives in the incidents that took their lives, but he thinks it would have given them more of a chance to defend themselves: “If you look at what happened to Deidre [Silas], who knows if this would have her or not? She would have at least had a better chance with pepper spray against a man who was armed with a knife. A few years ago when Pamela Knight was murdered while she was working for DCFS, she was pushed to the ground and then kicked. Again, pepper spray may have given her a fighting chance to just back the assailant off so she could have escaped. That’s kind of what we are trying to do. We are not just trying to punish people that do bad things. We are also trying to prevent people from getting murdered. That’s why I think my bill is very important. I’m very proud to have gotten it passed.”
The pepper spray bill takes effect immediately.