On Thursday, Chicago’s police union and suburban chiefs called for Foxx to resign as Cook County state attorney at a joint press conference.
After the Jussie Smollett case dismissal, Chicago Fraternal Order of the Police voted “no confidence.” In the press conference, they said that Foxx’s action on the Smollett case and her poor prosecution record, including the lack of supporting officers injured by suspects were the main causes of this decision.
“This is not just about the Jussie Smollett case, which undermined the public confidence and law enforcement’s faith in Cook County criminal justice system . . . this is about many cases that have gone un-prosecuted or had charges reduced, especially assaults against police officers,” said Chicago FOP President Kevin Graham.
Foxx responded: “I was elected by the people of Cook County to pursue community safety, prevent harm, and uphold the values of fairness and equal justice. I’m proud of my record in doing that, and I plan to do so through the end of my term and, if the people so will it, into the future.”
Foxx is the first Black woman to serve as the state attorney for Cook County, which is the the second largest prosecutor’s office in the country.
In the press conference, although Chicago is about 32 percent Black, no Black law enforcement were present at the press conference. This magnifies the racial segregation the city endures from Jim Crow on. Moreso, Chicago PD data shows the low numbers of Black and Latino hires. In 2018, reports said that 35 percent of hires are Hispanic, 17 percent are Black and 7 percent are Asian, while 41 percent are white.
Vote of ‘no confidence’ not unanimous
Not all police leadership are onboard with the call for Foxx’s resignation. In a released statement, Chicago Police Superintendent, Eddie Johnson stated:
The Chicago Police Department and Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office work in partnership to keep neighborhoods throughout our city safe,” Johnson said. “Our relationship is symbiotic, and we share the goal of reducing crime. Every day, CPD presents dozens of cases for felony prosecution. Our relationship with the CCSA is paramount in keeping dangerous offenders off of the streets and safeguarding the people of Chicago.
Johnson, an African American law enforcement official, expressed outrage after prosecution dismissed the Smollett case along with the city’s mayor Rahm Emanuel.
MAGA hats, the Smollett allegations and Foxx’s non-recusal
In late January, actor Jussie Smollett said he was attacked by racist, homophobic men wearing Donald Trump’s infamous, Make America Great Again hats. After over a month of investigation, Chicago PD claimed that he staged the attack.
Foxx’s predecessor, Anita Alvarez, with whom she beat in 2016 local elections, came out to criticize the new Cook County state attorney. She “did not do her job” said Alvarez in response to Foxx for not officially recusing herself. However, during her tenure, Alvarez failed to prosecute cops 68 times in seven years for killing citizens.
Amid police probe of Smollet’s allegations, Foxx spoke to one of his family members when Smollett was still considered a victim. According to the Chicago Sun-Times, the meeting was set up by Tina Tchen, a former chief-of-staff of former first lady of the United States, Michelle Obama. While Obama is acquainted with the Smollett family, Tchen said she knew Foxx through previous work dealings.
Early on, Foxx informally removed herself from the Smollett investigation as an internal precaution to distance herself from decisions, but never formally recused herself.
Last week, federal prosecutors dropped the 16 felony charges against actor-singer, after Chicago PD claimed that he staged the attack. The decision spurred an uproar by law enforcement.
The Illinois State Prosecutor’s Bar Association released a statement saying they do “not condone” the way the case was handled by Foxx and her staff.
The manner in which this case was dismissed was abnormal and unfamiliar to those who practice law in criminal courthouses across the State. Prosecutors, defense attorneys, and judges alike do not recognize the arrangement Mr. Smollett received. Even more problematic, the State’s Attorney and her representatives have fundamentally misled the public on the law and circumstances surrounding the dismissal.
Another group that is the National District Attorney’s Association with a statement explaining the missteps in Foxx’s decision not to formally recuse herself:
First, when a chief prosecutor recuses him or herself, the recusal must apply to the entire office, not just the elected or appointed prosecutor. This is consistent with best practices for prosecutors’ offices around the country.
Second, prosecutors should not take advice from politically connected friends of the accused. Each case should be approached with the goal of justice for victims while protecting the rights of the defendant.
Third, when a prosecutor seeks to resolve a case through diversion or some other alternative to prosecution, it should be done so with an acknowledgement of culpability on the part of the defendant. A case with the consequential effects of Mr. Smollett’s should not be resolved without a finding of guilt or innocence.
Fourth, expunging Mr. Smollett’s record at this immediate stage is counter to transparency. Law enforcement will now not be able to acknowledge that Mr. Smollett was indicted and charged with these horrible crimes and the full record of what occurred will be forever hidden from public view.
Finally, we believe strongly that hate crimes should be prosecuted vigorously but the burden of proof should not be artificially increased due to the misguided decisions of others.
Uphill battle in law enforcement changes
Since Foxx has been in office, she has taken measures to overhaul what is known as “wrongful conviction capital of the U.S.” So far, Cook County State Attorney’s Office has exonerated 41 wrongful convictions since Foxx entered into office.
In June 2017, her office announced that it would stop locking up people who stopped while driving with suspended licenses for financial reasons, such as failure to pay parking tickets or child support. She also changed felony convictions for shoplifting under $1,000 because it disproportionately affected the poor and homeless. From a social justice purview, these sweeping changes look promising; however, according to a story on Foxx by the Marshall Project, local law enforcement began to express anxiety. To them it seemed as if they were being painted as the problem.
Now, Chicago FOP and a collective of police associations call for an investigation into how Foxx handled the Smollett case.
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