Reactive. Not proactive. That is the attitude most law enforcement officials say they will take when administering the statewide smoking ban, which prohibits smoking in or near most public places.
Reactive. Not proactive.
That is the attitude most law enforcement officials say they will take when administering the statewide smoking ban, which prohibits smoking in or near most public places.
But, authorities concede, the law is the law and they won’t be turning a blind eye to violators once the ban goes into effect Jan. 1.
"It seems like every community is going to have to make some decisions on how to enforce this. … At this point we don’t know what we are going to do," Laimutis Nargelenas, the deputy director of the Illinois Association of Chiefs of Police, said. "I’m sure we’re going to be talking about this at our (January) conference."
However, lawmakers are still hammering out details surrounding the act, and questions regarding who enforces what and how have yet to be definitively answered. As a result, most hope smokers and non-smokers alike will police themselves.
"I envision this to be a complaint-driven law, and that’s how we’re going to react to this," East Peoria Police Chief Ed Papis said.
For the moment, the law designates the Illinois Department of Public Health, local public health departments and local law enforcement agencies as enforcers for the ban, handling complaints and issuing fines.
According to the proposed rules, businesses also will serve on the front lines of defense, being expected to warn smokers of the new ban and tell violators to stop.
The General Assembly’s Joint Committee on Administrative Rules — an oversight committee that reviews rules made by state agencies — likely will consider a second draft of the ban’s rules on Jan. 9. Until then, agencies will have to follow the provisions already written within the act.
Peoria Police Chief Steven Settingsgaard said his department likely won’t dispatch officers to deal with individual complaints, but did not rule out confronting frequent offenders.
Citing restaurant and food inspections as an example, he said he would prefer if other departments, besides his own, implemented the rules.
"I think it is very difficult to monitor and enforce, and I don’t think it is the type of law that is best suited for enforcement by the police," Settingsgaard wrote in an e-mail.
The Peoria City/County Health Department has been in contact with the State’s Attorney Office and the Police Department about how to enforce the act, said Brian Tun, director of health promotion at the health department. Nonetheless, he offered few specifics in terms of the responsibilities for individual agencies and how enforcement will be carried out.
"I hope the business owners and public will be compliant with the law," Tun said. "I think (after Jan. 9) we should have some sort of direction on how to do this."
Peoria Heights Police Chief Dustin Sutton said dealing with the ban will be doable but not a top priority because of less-than-ideal staffing levels, the sizeable number of businesses to check and the many other public safety issues to contend with.
"We’ll address this as it comes up," he said, echoing the sentiments of other law enforcement officials. "We don’t have the manpower to go bar to bar each night."
Though policing a smoking ban will be a new task for the Tri-County Area, more than three dozen Illinois communities already have one in effect — several for more than a year.
Since September 2006, health inspectors have investigated complaints throughout Springfield and unincorporated Sangamon County.
"The first month or two we were pretty busy," said Jim Henricks, director of environmental health at the Sangamon County Department of Public Health. He estimated health inspectors there have issued about 50 citations so far this year. None of them have been contested, he added.
Normal police did two to three weeks of proactive enforcement after the city enacted its own smoking ordinance earlier this year. The frequent business checks drove home the message and set the tone — no smoking allowed, said city manager Mark Peterson.
Now, the city relies on complaint calls, he said, and has written only one violation since the ban took effect. "This ordinance tends to police itself once people knew about it."
Frank Radosevich II can be reached at (309) 686-3142 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Erin Wood contributed to this report.