Chicago’s FBI office is in the midst of several high-profile political corruption cases that appear to be targeting state and local politicians through raids, indictments, wiretaps and a sprawling scope that’s not entirely clear. Since last fall, those investigations have been overseen by Special Agent in Charge Emmerson Buie Jr. He took over a post that has seen five different leaders in the last eight years.
“The FBI takes corruption very seriously. It’s our highest criminal priority. It’s also an arena where the FBI has developed an expertise over a number of years,” Buie said Tuesday on “Chicago Tonight.” “The public should expect – and there is an obligation on our behalf to make sure – that we keep the confidence in our (elected) officials as well as law enforcement.”
The commutation of former Gov. Rod Blagojevich’s 14-year sentence provided a reminder of how that confidence can be broken, but Buie says it hasn’t affected morale among the “amazing” agents in the Chicago office.
“I think that we have enough experience that we understand that the process is the process,” Buie said. “It’s our job to collect the facts and present the cases, the cases are adjudicated, and then the rest of the process plays out.”
Buie, a Chicago native, is the first African American to head the Chicago field office. He says returning to his hometown is “very humbling” – and an advantage as he tries to address the city’s violence.
“Growing up in the inner city, understanding some of the ideology of the gangs that may be influencing a lot of the violence that goes on as well as some of the other criminality … allows you to try to strategize more effectively to address it,” Buie said. He also think his Chicago roots will help him better connect with residents experiencing violence “to solicit their assistance in moving forward. It requires a partnership and a relationship … with law enforcement and the community,” he said.