SPRINGFIELD – In response to the dangers faced by frontline Department of Child and Family Services (DCFS) employees, including two high profile deaths in recent years, the Illinois General Assembly has passed new legislation to help those employees protect themselves in dangerous situations. The legislation was advanced by State Senator Steve McClure (R-Springfield), State Representative Sandy Hamilton (R-Springfield), and State Representative Tony McCombie (R-Savanna).
“Frontline DCFS workers serve the people of this state by protecting vulnerable children,” said Senator McClure. “In Illinois, it is legal for adults to carry pepper spray for personal protection, but DCFS workers have not had that ability while on the job. This will allow them to carry pepper spray for self-defense purposes and ensure that they know how to properly use it.”
Senate Bill 1486, originally filed by Senator McClure, would allow DCFS frontline workers to carry pepper spray for defensive purposes while investigating child abuse and neglect. The employees would be required to complete a training program from the Illinois State Police (ISP) on the proper use of pepper spray.
State Rep. Sandy Hamilton (R-Springfield) says the measure is meant as a first line of protection for case workers that find themselves in dangerous situations while on home visits.
“Allowing DCFS case workers to carry pepper spray is a common sense step we can take as a legislature to show that we understand that these vital public service and child welfare employees are valued. We mourn the loss of Pam Knight and Diedre Silas, and we never want another DCFS case worker to die on the job while they are working to protect our most vulnerable children. I’m proud to have co-sponsored this critical public safety measure and to see it head to the Governor’s desk.”
The legislation also requires DCFS to work with the ISP to identify a list of approved protection sprays. It also lays out guidelines for tracking the usage of such sprays by employees.
“I appreciate Sen. McClure’s leadership on this vital piece of legislation,” said Rep. McCombie. “Our front-line workers are put into compromising and unsafe situations almost every day. This tool and training will give them the resources they need to de-escalate intense situations, providing them the opportunity to escape imminent danger.”
The legislation was inspired by the murders of two DCFS investigators. Deidre Silas was stabbed to death in January at a home in Thayer during the course of a child welfare investigation. In February of 2018, Pamela Knight died in the hospital from injuries sustained during a brutal attack that occurred while she was trying to take a child into protective custody.
The legislation passed both the House and Senate with overwhelming support and is now headed to the Governor for his signature.