State

Illinois House likely won't hear bill to raise penalties for assaulting DCFS workers

Measure calls for harsher penalties in assault of service employees

A state bill aimed at delivering a harsher punishment for battering a Department of Children and Family Services or Adult Protective Services worker isn’t likely to be heard by legislators this year.

House Bill 4586 was introduced in February by state Rep. Tony McCombie, R-Savanna, in response to an attack on veteran DCFS worker Pamela Knight, 59, of Dixon in September.

The bill ups the battery charge to felony aggravated battery, punishable by four to 15 years in prison if the batterer, using anything other than a firearm, knowingly attacks a DCFS worker who’s performing his or her official duties, batters a worker to prevent the performance of those duties, or batters a worker in retaliation for performing those duties, causing great bodily harm or disfigurement.

The idea is to give DCFS and Adult Protective Services workers the same protections that are in place for firefighters, police or peace officers.

DCFS workers are not allowed to carry Mace or other weapons on home visits.

This week, the bill was referred to the Judiciary Criminal Committee before being funneled to the Sentencing, Penalties and Criminal Procedure Subcommittee, where McCombie said it unfairly will be buried without consideration for the rest of the year.

“Members of the majority, as well as their staff have stated that they are not willing to hear bills that will increase penalties, as they want to reform our criminal justice system,” she said. “Reform, by definition, means to improve, not ignore.”

The very least the committee members could have done is give their “time and respect” to listen to the concerns of Knight’s husband, Don, McCombie said.

“Pam Knight deserved so much more than what she got when she gave her life for the protection of another,” McCombie said.

Andrew Sucher, 25, faces 20 to 60 years in prison in the death of Knight, who died Feb. 8 in a Chicago hospital of injuries investigators have said Sucher inflicted Sept. 29 when he kicked her in the head, fracturing her skull and causing severe brain damage.

Knight, who was based in the Sterling DCFS office, went to Sucher’s home to take a 2-year-old into protective custody. When he wasn’t home, she went to his parents’ home in Milledgeville to check on the whereabouts of the child; she was attacked shortly after getting out of her car.

McCombie said the bill has more than 40 co-sponsors across both aisles and shouldn’t be brushed off, especially when the group addressed more controversial gun legislation recently that was not heard in committee.

“It has no opponents, but still did not get to be heard,” she said.

A bill mirrored in the Senate, which was introduced in January by state Sen. Tim Bivins, R-Dixon, was referred to the subcommittee on Council on Licensure, Enforcement and Regulation compliance in February, where it has remained.

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