Shattered Lock

Written By ESR News Blog Editor Thomas Ahearn

On August 13, 2021, Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker signed the “Empowering Public Participation Act” House Bill 1765 (HB 1765) that is designed to prevent police officers and others in law enforcement from conducting background checks on people attending and speaking at public meetings. The law took effect immediately.

Under HR 1765, “a law enforcement agency or an officer employed by a law enforcement agency may not knowingly and intentionally conduct a background check of a person for the sole reason of that person speaking at an open meeting of a public body, including police disciplinary boards.” A violation is a Class C misdemeanor.

As defined in HR 1765, “background check” means a criminal history check using the Law Enforcement Agencies Data System (LEADS) while “law enforcement agency” means an agency of the State or unit of local government charged with enforcement of State, county, or municipal laws or with managing custody of detained persons.

However, HR 1765 “does not apply whenever an agency or officer develops a reasonable suspicion of criminal conduct or a reasonable suspicion of a threat to security for the premises in which the meeting is to occur or for the protection of public officials and other persons attending the meeting.” A copy of the Act is available here.

Filed by State Representative Kam Buckner (D-26th District) and co-sponsored by State Senator Robert Peters (D-Chicago), the idea for the Act came from a 2019 Chicago Tribune report that revealed the Chicago Police Department ran secret background checks on people attending or speaking at meetings before the police board.

Employment Screening Resources® (ESR) – a leading global provider of background checks that was ranked the number one screening firm by HRO Today in 2020 – offers employers background checks for employment purposes to help them make informed hiring decisions. To learn more about ESR, visit www.esrcheck.com.

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