It was tough talk that could have come straight from the mouth of President Donald J. Trump or Attorney General Jeff Sessions, our nation’s top law enforcer.
Instead, it came from Cook County’s top law enforcer, State’s Attorney Kimberly Foxx, in a report last week on her first 100 days, delivered in a speech at the City Club of Chicago.
Foxx was elected state’s attorney in November, the first African-American woman to hold the office. She came down, high heels first, on the criminals terrorizing Chicago.
Foxx said she was outraged by a “week in January where in a span of four days, three children are killed.”
“There is no rationale that one can give. There is nothing I can tell my 14 or 11-year-old daughter[s] of why that makes sense,” she said. “We must go after those that are violently attacking neighborhoods.”
And unlike the big talkers in Washington, she is putting action where her mouth is.
Foxx announced that a collaboration between the region’s major law enforcement players has birthed a Gun Crimes Strategy Unit. Modeled after efforts in New York City and Los Angeles, it is designed to pursue “intelligence-driven prosecution strategies to targets violent crimes and offenders.”
But Foxx likes to temper her law-and-order mantra with compassion and street wisdom. As a child, she was the victim of sexual abuse. She has watched childhood friends and family go to prison.
Now she is rolling out initiatives that she believes will establish greater fairness and credibility in the criminal justice system. As part of a major reorganization of her office‚ the first since 1974, she has hired the office’s first ethics officer and chief diversity officer.
Her policy, she said, will be to make “prompt and clear charging decisions in officer-involved shooting cases.” And she dropped charges in the wrongful convictions of the Marquette Park 4, four men who had been falsely accused in a 1995 robbery and homicide.
Foxx insists she gives no quarter to the bad guys, but she believes that many of the young black men who are buried in the bowels of Cook County Jail don’t need to be there. She wants to curb the detention of non-violent defendants in jail simply because they can’t afford to make bond, are mentally ill or drug-addicted.
With respect to retail theft, she said, she will decline to pursue felony prosecutions for thefts of $1,000 or less.
But isn’t the prosecutor’s job to prosecute?
“I recognize that for many, having a prosecutor say that you are not going to prosecute someone seems antithetical to why you elected me,” she told the audience. But, she explained, a single-minded policy of lock ‘em all is short-sighted and costly. “People in our jails right now,” she said, “they aren’t the ones that are keeping us up at night.”
Instead, Foxx says, she is going hard after the professional thugs — repeat offenders in gun crimes who easily make bail. “They know that going to jail, there’s a cost to doing business,” she said, “and they have the capital to do it.”
Foxx is in honeymoon mode. Always looming: a possible Willie Horton debacle, where the wrong person is set free to do a heinous deed.
Still, her first 100 days hold promise for real justice for all in Cook County. I wish I could say the same for the big talkers in Washington.
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