Rebuilding trust in probes of police-involved shootings

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Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx. | Ashlee Rezin / Sun-Times

Follow @csteditorialsCook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx has repeatedly stressed her commitment to rebuilding trust in her office, including in cases involving fatal police-involved shootings.

To further that agenda, Foxx on Thursday said her office will add another layer of professional accountability by calling in the state’s appellate prosecutor’s office to review any police shootings she declines to prosecute. She has drafted legislation that would allow her to do so.

EDITORIAL

Follow @csteditorialsThis adds a new set of eyes to potentially controversial cases. If the state prosecutor thinks Foxx’s office is wrong not to prosecute, that would be made public, and Foxx would recuse herself from further proceedings.

“The critical issue in fatal officer-involved shooting cases is how to conduct investigations and make charging decisions in a manner that is viewed as credible and legitimate by the involved parties and the public,” Foxx said in a statement.

Foxx is right about that, and her plan looks like progress. But let’s also be clear that it is no perfect solution. The state’s appellate prosecutor’s office, which now handles only cases outside Cook County, has its own critics. They say the state office is not the answer to avoiding prosecutorial complicity in police misconduct.

Bill Clutter, director of investigations for the Springfield-based Investigating Innocence, for example, says the agency “has a lousy track record” on that score.

Foxx deserves credit for proposing more trustworthy procedures, but the best safeguard against miscarriages of justice remains officials at every level — from cops to prosecutors to judges — who do their job without fear or favor.

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