Black Voices

Kim Foxx Floats Changes to How Her Office Prosecutes Crime, Drug Cases Tied to Traffic Stops

Kim Foxx Floats Changes to How Her Office Prosecutes Crime, Drug Cases Tied to Traffic Stops

Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx wants to change the way her office prosecutes crime and drug cases related to traffic stops.

It’s an issue that was brought into sharp focus following the police killing of Dexter Reed in March after he was pulled over for an alleged seatbelt violation.

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“There’s been study after study that has shown that these traffic stops, particularly in the city of Chicago, disproportionately impact Black and Latino drivers,” Foxx said in an interview with WTTW News. “For Black drivers in particular, they’re six times more likely than White drivers to be pulled over, and we’re talking hundreds of thousands of these stops a year.”

Most of those stops never result in an arrest, let alone a prosecution.

“There’s only one arrest for every 1,000 of these traffic stops,” Foxx said. “And so there’s a very small number of these cases that come before us. And what we want to make sure is that these aren’t fishing expeditions (and) that we’re not using traffic stops as a means to be able to get into people’s cars without probable cause.”

Under Foxx’s new proposal, prosecutors would not file drug, gun and theft charges stemming from an initial traffic stop where there was no other probable cause to make the stop.

Foxx last year announced she would not seek reelection, putting control of the second largest prosecutor’s office in the country up for grabs this November.

Asked why she was making the proposal now and not leaving such a policy change to her successor, Foxx said “the issue of racial equity, fairness and justice is not something that gets put on the shelf simply because I am leaving.”

“Certainly my successor will come in and have their own set of priorities and agendas that they want to address,” said Foxx, but she noted research on the impact of traffic stops on Black and Latino communities is clear.

“We can’t simply say that we know we have a problem with these types of stops and then say, ‘Well, what do we do?’” said Foxx. “So certainly I would hope that whoever sits in the seat after I leave believes that it is a priority for keeping our community safe.”

The fight to succeed Foxx in November’s general election will be between Democrat Eileen O’Neill Burke, Republican Bob Fioretti and Libertarian Andrew Kopinski.

Foxx’s latest proposal comes as a federal court order requiring the Chicago Police Department to change the way it trains, supervises and disciplines officers is set to expand to include traffic stops.

Foxx, the first Black woman to hold the office of Cook County state’s attorney, said she is pleased by that development.

“When the consent decree was first enacted several years ago, there was a focus on stop-and-frisk — about, again, stopping disproportionately Black and Latino residents and patting them down, asking them what they had on them,” said Foxx. “And what we saw was a precipitous drop in stop-and-frisk incidents and a dramatic rise in traffic stops. And so I think there was recognition that we were potentially substituting one unconstitutional method of policing for another.”

CPD says it has already launched a review of the department’s use of traffic stops and stepped up efforts to train officers on their responsibility under the Fourth Amendment, which prohibits unconstitutional searches and seizures.

The department has made approximately 70,800 fewer traffic stops so far in 2024, as compared with the year before, while officers have made 425 more felony arrests after traffic stops than they did during the same period last year, officials said.

More than 51% of all drivers stopped by police officers in 2023 were Black, and nearly 31% of drivers pulled over by Chicago police officers were Latino.

By comparison, just 13.6% of drivers stopped by Chicago police were White, according to a report from Impact for Equity, a nonprofit advocacy and research organization that has helped lead the push to reform the Chicago Police Department.

Approximately 73% of the traffic stops made by Chicago police officers in 2023 were prompted by improper registration or an equipment violation, according to the report.

Just 2.2% of those stops led to an arrest, and a gun was recovered in just 0.5% of stops, according to the report. Approximately 4.4% of stops led to a citation, according to the report.

A separate report from Chicago’s inspector general released in March 2022 found that when a police stop results in an officer using force, 83.4% of those incidents involve a Black person.

WTTW News’ Heather Cherone contributed.

A Safer City is supported, in part, by the Sue Ling Gin Foundation Initiative for Reducing Violence in Chicago. 

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