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Illinois lawmakers consider security for DCFS workers; ACLU raises concerns

A new proposal would add armed security with caseworkers on visits they feel could turn violent.

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. — Illinois lawmakers are debating a new proposal that could beef up protection for DCFS workers across the state.

It comes after a rise in deadly attacks on the workers while on the job.

Some Illinois senators are pushing for security forces to join the staff on home visits.

"I think there's a lot of work to do," Illinois State Rep. Tony McCombie said.

Lawmakers are discussing whether the new safety measure could be the protection needed for DCFS workers.

"We have to quit talking about it," McCombie said. "We have to empower and give the DCFS agency the tools to fix this."

A new proposal would add armed security with caseworkers on visits they feel could turn violent.

"It's definitely a potentially dangerous environment," ACLU of Illinois member Heidi Dalenberg said.

"They are trained to support the staff that they're with," McCombie said.

McCombie, who's been a strong advocate for DCFS, said she supports the bill. 

The same cannot be said for the ACLU of Illinois.

"The best person to have with you is another social worker trained person," Dalenberg said.

McCombie feels an additional worker would add more risk and that there are not enough workers to handle the current workload.

"In the case of Pam Knight, with a man who beat her with his hands and boots. He can't take two women?" McCombie said.

Illinois Senator Neil Anderson is a co-sponsor of the bill who hopes to gather support from both sides of the aisle to pass the measure.

“While it is unfortunate that an act of criminal violence led to another DCFS worker losing her life, this bill is a step in the right direction to provide resources and protections necessary for DCFS workers,” Anderson said. “I look forward to working with my colleagues across the aisle in a bi-partisan manner to see this bill become law.”

Although the ACLU feels the proposal could make matters worse.

"A person who is not likely to ratchet up the panic in the home because they're not wearing a uniform and a badge," Dalenberg said.

"I disagree strongly with the ACLU, because they are trained to deescalate situations," McCombie said.

The bill would allow DCFS to handle training the security workers with oversight from Illinois State Police.

"The emphasis on training the workers that actually have to do, I think is a seriously important one," Dalenberg said.

The bill is currently being debated by lawmakers in the Senate.

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