That was the message a host of officials from police departments across Cook County delivered to Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx Thursday in an escalating face-off between the county’s top prosecutor and the cops who work hand-in-hand with her office.
The 40 or so chiefs on other police officials — who gathered at the Chicago Police Department’s union hall and represent dozens of municipalities in the county — pointed to the abrupt end of the Jussie Smollett prosecution and a perceived failure to bring and uphold criminal charges in other cases as some of their main reasons for demanding Foxx step down.
In recent weeks, three chiefs of police departments have written to Foxx to inform her that organizations representing police chiefs in the north, south and west suburbs have “no confidence” in Foxx’s abilities as the county’s chief prosecutor.
Duane Mellema, head of the North Suburban Association of Chiefs of Police representing more than 30 departments, said the no-confidence vote taken Tuesday by his group was unanimous.
In a letter sent to Foxx, Mellema, who is police chief in Park Ridge, expressed concern over prosecutors’ refusal to file felony charges in certain crimes. He said the Smollett case, “metaphorically, is the straw that broke the camel’s back.”
“The abrupt dropping of the 16 indictments against ‘Empire’ actor Jussie Smollett during an unannounced court hearing on March 26, 2019, is the latest and most egregious example of the failure by you and your staff to hold offenders accountable,” Mellema states in the letter.
Agreed Westchester Police Chief Steven Stelter: “The citizens of Cook County have to realize their state’s attorney is letting them and down and she’s letting them down every day.”
Kevin Graham, president of the Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 7, which represents more than 10,000 rank-and-file CPD officers, said police departments’ frustrations with Foxx’s office have persisted since she was elected three years ago.
“This didn’t start with Jussie Smollett,” Graham said. He is particularly concerned about charges not being brought when cops are injured by suspects.
The FOP has called for the U.S. Attorney’s Office to investigate what prompted the sudden about-face in the Smollett case. Graham said Thursday that federal investigators have been in touch with FOP about police concerns.
Foxx defends record
In an emailed statement, Foxx said she was proud of her record and had no plans to step down.
“I was elected by the people of Cook County to pursue community safety, prevent harm, and uphold the values of fairness and equal justice,” Foxx said. “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 was elected in 2016 in the wake of the release of the Laquan McDonald shooting video. Her predecessor, Anita Alvarez, was the subject of intense public scrutiny for her decision to not bring murder charges against Jason Van Dyke for more than a year after the shooting.
Foxx campaigned on a reform platform and her office has opted not to bring felony charges in shoplifting cases involving stolen goods valued at under $1,000, among the decisions that have upset police.
Graham cited last month’s murder of Chicago Police officer John Rivera as a reason for Foxx to resign. He noted that one of the three men charged in his killing had a history of domestic violence, including allegedly breaking into his ex-girlfriend’s apartment and pointing a gun at her head. But he was able to plead guilty to lesser charges and was later released from GPS monitoring just two weeks before Rivera was killed. A county judge, though, had to approve the plea deal and monitoring.
‘A premature act’
Still, at least one area police chief said it was not the time to call on Foxx to step down.
“While I do respect the decision of my colleagues, I certainly feel that this was a premature act,” said Harvey Police Chief Gregory Thomas.
Thomas said he was not present when the no confidence vote was called at the March 28 meeting of the South Suburban Association of Chiefs. He added that, had he been there, he would not have supported it.
“The relationship between a police department and a state’s attorney’s office is like a marriage,” Thomas added. “There’s not always agreeable moments, but that does not result in a lack of confidence in the leadership of the state’s attorney’s office.”
“ … I’m just not prepared at this point to say that Ms. Foxx is unqualified or that I’ve lost confidence in her,” Thomas said.
Chicago Police Supt. Eddie Johnson was not present at Thursday’s press conference, though Graham said he spoke with him beforehand about the no confidence votes. In a statement, Johnson did not come to Foxx’s defense, though he stressed the importance of the working relationship between the CPD and state’s attorney’s office.
“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.”