Local Election

Both candidates in 14th U.S. House race support protesters, call for police reforms

Jim Oberweis and Lauren Underwood
Jim Oberweis and Lauren Underwood

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Both candidates for Illinois' 14th Congressional District seat voiced support Wednesday for the protests that have been occurring across the nation after the death of a Black man in Minneapolis police custody this spring.

Democratic U.S. Rep. Lauren Underwood and Republican challenger Jim Oberweis also decried the violence that has marred those protests, violence that has resulted in deaths, injuries and millions of dollars in property damage.

Underwood and Oberweis discussed the protests and riots -- as well as possible police reforms and other issues -- during a joint, online meeting with editors and reporters from the Daily Herald and Shaw Media.

Underwood, a first-term legislator from Naperville, said she has been pleased with the "rallies and protests and calls to action" that have followed the death of George Floyd in May. She said they affirm a message of equity and justice, and she said the country is "eager and hungry" for police reform.

Underwood said she's championed such reforms in the George Floyd Justice and Policing Act, which aims to increase accountability for law enforcement misconduct, enhance data collection and eliminate discriminatory policing practices.

If approved, the legislation would create a national registry for complaints of police misconduct and establish new requirements for bias and racial profiling training and body cameras, among other steps. The legislation has passed the House and is awaiting action in the Senate.

This isn't just an issue for urban communities or for people of color, Underwood said. "Policing reform helps all of us," she said.

Oberweis, a state senator and dairy owner from Sugar Grove, said police officers who "make those types of mistakes" should be punished. He said he's filed state legislation that would require police officers to be licensed to prevent bad cops from being hired elsewhere. That proposed legislation hasn't yet been read into the record because of the COVID-19 pandemic and exists only in draft form, an Oberweis campaign spokesman said after the interview.

Oberweis also said everyone should agree that demonstrating or protesting is the right thing to do when people see something wrong happening.

"(It's) absolutely the right thing to do and should be supported by all of us," Oberweis said.

But he criticized those people who've turned those protests into opportunities to riot and loot businesses.

"Those mistakes that a few people make in no way should lead to groups of people burning down businesses, destroying businesses, looting (and) rioting," Oberweis said. "Republicans and Democrats alike should certainly be agreeing that that is wrong and unacceptable."

Oberweis alleged Underwood "doesn't feel that way" and called on Underwood to condemn the violence.

When asked to respond, Underwood called the recent deadly violence in Kenosha – resulting in homicide and reckless homicide charges against a teen from Antioch, which is in the 14th District – "heartbreaking."

Underwood later said it's a tragedy "when people are injured, when there's violence (or) when there's damage and the like as a result of these types of demonstrations."

"That's not appropriate," she said.

The 14th District includes parts of DuPage, Kane, Lake, McHenry, Will, DeKalb and Kendall counties.

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