By J. Coyden Palmer, Chicago Crusader
Walking into her office as the new Cook County State’s Attorney last week, Kim Foxx jumped right into revamping the office that has lost all credibility within the Black community because of former State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez. Foxx earlier this week held a press conference to announce some of the sweeping changes she is making within the first week. They include plans to reduce case backloads, hiring ethic officers, streamlining the office’s resources to serve taxpayers and confronting the long-known racial disparities within the Cook County judicial system. Perhaps her biggest announcement was how she will handle officers accused of crimes and police involved shootings.
“We really want to change the culture of the office…that means it has to start with me putting changes in motion, with the help of my team,” Foxx told members of the press at her office Dec. 5. “While cost is a factor, I think we have paid a higher cost in the credibility of our criminal justice system — the fact that the neighborhoods that need us the most trust us the least.”
Foxx said she still has to do some homework on the subject of bringing in special prosecutors for high-profile cases in which police officers are the defendants. She needs to find out the cost and does she have to go to a judge and ask permission first. Her theory for doing so though is because her office works closely with local officers, it can put both parties in an awkward position and it does not look good in the eyes of the public.
She mentioned some of the problems that the Baltimore County State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby had when trying to prosecute the officers in the Freddie Gray case earlier this year. Mosby confessed the defendants’ fellow officers would not cooperate with her investigators or some just outright refused to give statements. All of the officers in the Freddie Gray case were either found not guilty or had their cases dismissed for lack of evidence.
But Foxx did promise faster probes into police misconduct and faster decisions in whether or not to charge an officer. She said the murders of Rekiah Boyd and LaQuan McDonald by Chicago police officers has torn the city apart. She said the public lost faith in the system when former Detective Dante Servin was found not guilty by a judge because he was charged with second degree murder instead of first degree by Alvarez’s office. She added the entire world looked down on Chicago after the LaQuan McDonald video went public 14 months after city officials and prosecutors first knew of its existence.
“For the morale of the force, for the morale of the community, for the morale of the family whose loved one may have been killed, we cannot drag our feet,” she said. “We cannot be afraid to make decisions in these cases.”
When Foxx speaks of diversity and racial disparities within the county judicial system she is speaking about her own office as well. She said of the 800 attorneys who work in the office, only two African American men are in leadership positions within the office, although African American men are the most prosecuted offenders within the office. She will be hiring a diversity officer to advise her on how best to change the racial culture and make-up within the office. By doing so she realizes she will be creating some foes.
“This might be a situation where some people who are here now may not want to stay because they don’t believe in the vision I have for the office,” she bluntly confessed.
Dr. Willie Wilson is leading the charge to help ease overcrowding at the county jail as well. He and members of the mental health community say too many people in county jail are there for either non-violent offenses in which they cannot pay their bail or they are mental health patients who know they can get the medical treatment they need if they are in jail.
Foxx said she will be looking at a number of ways to use tools in the prosecutor’s office to help keep first time offenders out of jail. During the campaign she also spoke about the need for more restorative justice programs at city schools to help lower the juvenile crime rate.