Despite US law, gun rules prohibit jail, court retirees | Illinois News
By JOHN O’CONNOR, AP Political Writer
SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) — For more than three decades, Marcus Hargrett’s version of getting ready for work included sheathing a semi-automatic pistol before reporting to Cook County Jail.
Now retired, Hargrett and thousands of other former county sheriff’s officers say federal law allows them to carry guns anywhere in the country. But state government administrators prevented them from doing so for nearly two decades.
In Illinois, the Law Enforcement Officers Safety Act, signed by President George W. Bush in 2004, allows up to 10,000 retired officers to carry concealed weapons anywhere “notwithstanding any state or local law”. .
But the office that governs the Illinois program created rules that exclude ex-corrections officers — guards who operated the prison like Hargrett — and court service officers or bailiffs. The Law Enforcement Training and Standards Board of Illinois determined that they were not “retired law enforcement officers.”
Hargrett, 63, has spent much of his career in a police car patrolling the nation’s largest single-site prison. This meant transporting inmates to and from court, hospital or doctor’s visits. It was also to apprehend the troublemakers.
“We would be doing vehicle stops or investigating suspicious people around the prison complex,” Hargrett said. “We intervened several times and made arrests. …
“It’s just insane to tell us we’re law enforcement officers taking law enforcement action, but then when we retire we say we’re not officers. retired law enforcement officers.
Under federal law, they are. The roughly 6,000 retirees in place of Hargrett meet the LEOSA requirement that they spend at least 10 years as an officer with powers of arrest.
But in Illinois, there’s an added wrinkle. The Training and Standards Council defines “retired law enforcement officer” as any police officer who, during their career, was “primarily responsible for the prevention or detection of crime”.
To complicate matters, the LEOSA card application includes a form asking applicants to affirm that they meet the state’s definition of “retired law enforcement officer.” But in the same application, there is a second form on which the executive’s former employer must certify that the retiree meets the expanded federal definition.
Despite repeated phone calls and emails seeking comment, neither Keith Calloway, acting executive director of the standards council, nor chief legal counsel John Keigher responded to requests for comment from The Associated Press. Neither was in the Springfield office Friday when the AP visited.
The differing requirements prompted Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart to avoid green light corrections and deputies to court for universal concealed carry eligibility, despite being the primary signatory of a letter of 2015 to the standards council arguing the LEOSA case for retirees.
“The sheriff has been clear in his support of these officers’ cause and remains supportive to this day,” Dart spokesman Matthew Walberg said. “Unfortunately, the Illinois requirements are more narrowly constructed than federal law.”
Not all sheriffs feel so constrained. In Sangamon County, corrections deputies are not eligible for the concealed carry program, but Sheriff Jack Campbell confirms eligibility for retired deputies who, while on duty, often arrest people for crimes such as the attempt to smuggle contraband into the courthouse.
Retired deputies might qualify under the state’s civil portage law. But only half of the states honor the Illinois license. Hargrett recounts confrontations with former Cook County inmates while visiting trade shows, once in Atlanta and once in New Orleans, both located in non-reciprocating states.
Washington, DC, corrections officers went to federal court in 2016 when their employer denied LEOSA credentials, saying they had no powers of arrest. But the officers prevailed, producing evidence that they did. Officers also testified that they found guards’ “kill lists” in the inmates’ cells. One recalled how he was confronted by an ex-con while on vacation with his family in a faraway state.
“If you’re a criminal and you spend 20 years in prison, when you get out, are you more likely to target the officer who arrested you 20 years ago or the guy who exercised control over your day-to-day existence? for 20 years?” said officers’ attorney Aaron Marr Page, who advised Hargrett. “The idea that they don’t face those threats is ridiculous.”
Barron Alston, 59, a 30-year retired veteran of Cook County Corrections assigned to electronic surveillance, vetted homebound defendants awaiting trial and arrested those who broke the rules.
In retirement, the Hillside resident said he regularly encountered people he had arrested “for drugs, guns, a little bit of everything…murderers, rapists, arsonists, people who bother the children.”
The matter has also been brought before the Illinois courts. The January 2018 federal ruling ruled against the eligibility of five retirees from Cook and DuPage County Sheriff’s Corrections and Courts.
But U.S. District Judge Gary Feinerman did not rule on the unfair exclusion of retirees. He concluded that they could not use federal civil rights law to challenge whether they had been wrongfully excluded.
In part, the decision revealed a hidden Catch-22: LEOSA requires photo ID from the retiree’s former agency. Feinerman decided that because, by definition, they don’t meet the state’s requirements for photo ID, denying universal gun-carrying privileges does no harm.
Pensioners, meanwhile, are baffled by the pointing finger. Dart will not sign corrections and court deputies because state rules declare them ineligible. The board sees it differently. In a 2018 letter to Hargrett, former executive director Brent Fischer suggested he plead his case to Dart, which “has a lot more discretion” than the board.
Alston had the same reaction late last fall during a visit to the standards council’s Springfield office.
“They told me they had no problem with it,” Alston said. “They said it was the sheriff holding you.”
Follow political writer John O’Connor at https://twitter.com/apoconnor
Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.