The Crusader Newspaper Group

Kim Foxx’s office now accepts police complaints

Activists fight for more change, accountability

By Patrick Forrest

With increased calls for police reform, Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx is announcing her office will now allow residents to submit claims against law enforcement officers of criminal misconduct and upload photo and video evidence of any alleged incident.

The Police Criminal Misconduct Complaint form will include more than a dozen sections and questions, such as when the misconduct occurred, if witnesses were present, and if the complainant himself was arrested by police during the incident.

The form will give residents a voice when they are victims of different types of law enforcement misconduct, including excessive force, intimidation and sexual assault.

“As we see an increase in allegations of police criminal misconduct, it is our obligation to provide an outlet where these serious concerns can be acknowledged and addressed in a timely way,” Foxx said in a statement. “This tool will allow direct access to the State’s Attorney’s Office and offer an immediate resource as we work to increase accountability and equity in our justice system.”

The form is 15 questions long and will allow victims to upload photo or video evidence that will support their claim.

“So you don’t have to go into any place, you can go online, you can share your evidence online so that we can be able to review it,” Foxx said.

In addition to the change and the new form being available, complaints against Chicago officers can still be made through the old avenue of the Office of the Inspector General.

While the change does separate Chicago from other cities, activists and many aldermen are calling for the creation of an elected Civilian Police Accountability Council. Plans have been around for its creation for years but recently an ordinance with 19 sponsors was introduced in the City Council, including many of the aldermen from majority Black wards such as Anthony Beale of the 9th and Jeanette Taylor of the 20th.

“One of the things I ran my campaign on was CPAC. We see police brutality every day in the simplest ways. The summer I ran, a young man was killed at the corner store and the police were laughing. Just imagine seeing your friend lying on the ground, and the police laughing,” Taylor said. “That’s the reality you see too often in my community.”

Despite the growing support in the City Council, Mayor Lori Lightfoot has repeatedly shot down the idea, instead opting for an oversight plan that would involve the Grassroots Alliance for Police Accountability, a coalition of community organizations to improve police practices and create “one citywide, civilian-led oversight body.”

The Grassroots Alliance for Police Accountability plan — called GAPA is backed by 20 aldermen and would create a seven member commission and give the group power to hire and fire the police chief while overseeing police conduct.

“We continue to work with aldermen, GAPA members and residents to receive sufficient input and helpful feedback regarding the latest draft of the legislation, and we look forward to passing a measure at City Council as soon as possible,” Lightfoot’s office said in a statement.

While GAPA does give many new powers to the committee, many believe the ordinance does not compare to CPAC or the action that will be needed in order to create change.

COPA would allow the commission nearly full autonomy over the police department giving them the power to hire and fire the police superintendent; hire and fire the head of the Civilian Office of Police Accountability (COPA); hire and fire the members of the police board; write and determine CPD policy; maintain final authority over CPD policy and COPA policy; maintain final authority over police board policy and disciplinary measures, including firing of officers and convening grand juries as well as negotiate the CPD union contract.

The need for change has become clear to members of the City Council, like 5th ward Alderman Leslie Hairston who feels any change needs to engage the youth in the future of this city.

“I use my ward as an example. Attendance at CAPS is very low — and this is pre-coronavirus,” Hairston said. “Most of the people are older; you’re not capturing the young people … maybe there are programs engaging with the youth, but not in a meaningful way.”

No matter which proposal Lightfoot ultimately gets put on her desk, she will need to make the decision, because as she knew before taking office the public’s patience on these issues often wears thin.

“Any effort to stall it and not let it see the light of day …. I think will be met with extreme, extreme hostility and it will be taken out on them,” Hairston added.

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