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Driving while black becoming easier in Illinois

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Black motorists said two state laws Governor Pat Quinn recently signed now makes it easier for them to drive without fear of being stopped so often.

In July, Quinn signed Senate Bill 3411, which now prohibits a county or municipality law enforcement officials from comparing the number of citations issued by the law enforcement officer to the number of citations issued by any other law enforcement officer for purposes of job performance evaluation.

And last week the governor signed Senate Bill 2583, which eliminates the requirement that a valid driver’s license must be posted as bail for certain traffic offenses. The new law allows a motorist’s signature on the citation to be their guarantee that they will comply with the terms of the citation and either appears in court or pay the required fine.

Black motorists said they are thrilled about the new laws.

“I can’t tell you how many times I have had to give up my driver’s license while driving on the highway through a small town,” said Andre Morrison, 49. “Like most people I go ahead and plead guilty so I can hurry up and get my license back. Now there’s no rush.”

Dennis Ellison, 33, said police officers (especially in Chicago) often stop black drivers hoping to find a gun, drugs or a warrant issued against them.

“At least now [these laws make] it is harder for them to stop us (blacks) for no apparent reason,” Ellison said.

Allegations of racial profiling by police departments is one reason why Quinn said recently signed new legislation that prohibits municipalities from requiring police officers to meet ticket quotas.

“Law enforcement officers should have discretion on when and where to issue traffic citations and not be forced to ticket motorists to satisfy a quota system,” Quinn said. “This new law will improve safety and working conditions for police officers and prevent motorists from facing unnecessary anxiety when they encounter a police vehicle.”

But Quinn said he motivation for signing SB 2583 goes beyond making sure drivers are not inconvenienced for minor traffic stops.

“A driver’s license is an important form of identification, and without it many residents may run into problems during everyday situations when a valid ID is required,” Quinn said. “This common sense legislation will allow law enforcement officials to continue doing their jobs while letting motorists hang onto a vital piece of identification.”

State Senator Michael Noland (D-Elgin) and state Representative John D’Amico (D-Chicago) sponsored SB 2583 and both agreed with Quinn.

“With this bill, Illinois drivers will be able to keep their driver’s license which is used as a primary form of identification for receiving services related to banking, travel, education and more,” said Noland. “Now, with just their signature, drivers in Illinois can pay their fines online or by mail, appear if necessary, but keep their license as long as their fine is paid.”