Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx joined “Chicago Tonight: Black Voices” to talk about everything from how to tackle crime in Chicago, the controversial release of former Chicago police officer Jason Van Dyke and her push to address wrongful convictions.
When asked if she believes Van Dyke should face federal charges, Foxx said the sentence did not meet the crime and believes justice was not served.
“I certainly believe at least, you know, a review of federal civil rights charges is appropriate and an announcement one way or the other should be coming forward,” said Foxx.
Earlier this week, Cook County prosecutors tossed out more convictions linked to disgraced Chicago police Sgt. Ronald Watts. Watts admitted to extorting money from drug dealers and was frequently accused of planting evidence and fabricating charges. So far, the state’s attorney’s office has dismissed 134 convictions tied to Watts since 2016. A total of 34 more cases are on track to be vacated within the next few weeks.
“This is a matter of looking in the past and writing the wrongs so that we can do the work that we need to do now to keep our communities safe,” Foxx said. “I think we have to remember that the communities that are impacted by crime and violence, many of them have a very low threshold of trust with law enforcement, largely because of acts like this, and so people don’t want to participate, don't want to help us because they believe the system, because of the actions like corrupt officers like Watts isn't fair, and so in order to rebuild that trust, we have to admit when we’ve made mistakes, right those wrongs.”
Foxx also weighed in on the issue of crime in Chicago. There were 182 shootings and 48 homicides last month, according to data from the Chicago Police department. Last year ended with nearly 800 homicides. Foxx’s office has been accused of not being tough enough on crime, thereby contributing to its escalation.
“Certainly I remind folks that our office gets involved once an arrest is made and someone is presented to us for prosecution, and so we have to make sure that one, people are being arrested, that they are brought to us for charges, and we have brought charges where appropriate,” Foxx said. “One of the things I’m most proud of is that we put every bit of data that we do on our website so that you can see what our approval rate is for cases that are brought to us. So for example, for carjackings, which I know many of us are rightfully afraid of, we have an approval rate of charges of over 90%. When we look at shootings that are brought to us, we can track our approval rating, and so, you know, I think we have to do everything that we can, it’s all hands on deck.”
Letting people accused of violent crimes out on electronic monitoring has also been a point of contention. Mayor Lori Lightfoot asked the courts to temporarily stop releasing those charged with violent crimes or weapons violations out on electronic monitoring devices and instead keep them in jail while they await trial. That request was rejected by Cook County Chief Judge Tim Evans.
“I think we want to make sure that anybody who is released pretrial, again, they have a presumption of innocence, but that they aren’t a threat to public safety,” Foxx said. “And so whether they’re out on bond with no conditions or they’re on electronic monitoring, we want to make sure that we’re monitoring that, but I do think that there are literally at this moment thousands of people who are out on bond or on some other condition who are not picking up new offenses, who are not causing harm to the community, and so I don’t want us to distort those incidents when they occur, that they account for the whole and so we have to be transparent, we have to have data that is accurate so that if there are tweaks that we need to make, we can make them. And I think part of this debate, a lot of it has been riddled with information that simply hasn’t been accurate.”
Foxx, Lightfoot and Chicago Police Superintendent David Brown made a rare appearance together recently at a news conference announcing charges in the shooting death of 8-year-old Melissa Ortega in Little Village. Foxx said it was important that they stand united in that moment.
“It’s incredibly important to the people that we serve to know that we are working together behind the scenes and for you all to be able to see it, for the public to be able to see it. It’s all hands on deck,” Fpxx said. “We all recognize and we all have the same mission that if people do not feel safe coming out of their homes, we all suffer for that. We may not always agree, but we all have a common purpose which is to keep our community safe, and I believe we owe it to the public to show and give them confidence that we're working together.”
Foxx says her office, Lightfoot’s office, and the Chicago Police Department have a healthy working relationship and meet regularly.