Foxx sees police as both helpers and critics — and needing to change: ‘It’s not going to be easy, and it’s not going to be quick’
Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx sees the conversations happening now as a “transformational moment.” She’s optimistic about the possibility of change.
Growing up, Kim Foxx said it was not her experience to be “treated poorly by the police.”
In Cabrini-Green, the Near North Side public housing development where the future Cook County State’s Attorney spent her childhood, Foxx’s “role in the family” was to sometimes call the police to help defend her mother from her mother’s boyfriend.
“I viewed them as someone who could help us to be able to stop the harm that was happening to my mother,” Foxx said. “I did not have, or grow up with, a fear of the police. Now, I have relatives — Black men in my family — whose experiences were very different … People would come and try to clear corners, and sometimes they would ask politely and sometimes less so.”
For Foxx, the “jarring” encounters with police were not on a street corner or traffic stop, but in her dealings with the Chicago police union or postings on individual officers’ blogs.
Professionally, it’s been “no secret that the [Fraternal Order of Police] has taken issue with me, and I think in a way that is felt beyond just my policy reform ideas,” the county’s top prosecutor said in an interview with the Chicago Sun-Times.
“The hate mail that I’ve received – no one should ever read ‘Second City Cop’ if you want to maintain your belief in humanity,” she said, referring to a blogger she accused of “using racist rhetoric to describe me.”
“It would be one thing to simply say, as they do, ‘oh, it’s a few bad apples,’ but the permissiveness of such language and rhetoric that is rooted in race, that is rooted in misogyny and their still, to this day, lack of apology for being in the company of, and feeling comfortable in the company of white supremacists who marched on my office — that has been jarring,” Foxx said.
The police union has been a regular critic of Foxx and her work, organizing a rally against her last year that saw members of the Proud Boys, the American Guard and the American Identity Movement attending. The Southern Poverty Law Center has labeled the Proud Boys and the American Guard hate groups.
And Second City Cop, an anonymous blog run by a Chicago police officer that shares department rumors and commentary on local news, has been a vocal and insulting critic of Foxx.
The prosecutor says such treatment is why she is “deeply empathetic” with those who are frustrated and feel they have nowhere to turn for help in the face of the broken relationship with “the people whose job it is to serve and protect” them.
“What I say is, I know that the overwhelming majority of the people in the Chicago Police Department, and in our suburban police departments, are there for the right reasons, doing the right thing and don’t buy into the rhetoric of their union leadership,” she said.
Chicago FOP President John Catanzara Jr. said the union’s complaints about Foxx are based on her job performance.
“We are a law and order profession by nature,” Catanzara wrote in an email. “She is SUPPOSED to be on that page. Except she is a social activist in an elected law enforcement position. Yet another Chicago, Cook County, State of Illinois contradiction! Her lack of willingness to faithfully do her job is the FOP’s biggest problem with Kim Foxx.”
Despite the FOP and the bloggers, the Cook County state’s attorney sees the conversations happening now after the Minneapolis police killing of George Floyd as a “transformational moment.”
She’s optimistic about the possibility of change.
“It’s an optimism that’s rooted in it’s not going to be easy, and it’s not going to be quick,” she said.
The transformation needs to be in policing as well as communities rocked by violence — and the relationship between the two.
“I think for decades there have been conversations that have talked about the fractured relationship between police and communities that have scratched the surface and not why the relationship was fractured in the first place,” Foxx said.
“I think the biggest difference that I see now than in conversations past is that there has been what feels like universal agreement that there have been systemic, racist policies that have driven a lot of criminal justice system over the last several decades and a universal consensus that until we attack those systemic issues we’re not going to be able to move in a way that sees substantial change.”
The county’s top prosecutor favors an “all hands on deck” approach that includes everything from reopening the FOP’s contract to examining racial disparities in police shootings and incarceration to providing opportunities to communities that need them.
Foxx said there needs to be “significantly more investment in things that prevent crime,” such as drug treatment, mental health facilities, and in the economies on the South and West sides.
Foxx didn’t use the term “defunding the police,” but she does support putting resources into “community-based solutions to crime prevention” and making “prevention just as important as response,” though that doesn’t necessarily mean taking those funds from police.
“If you really talk to people in these neighborhoods, they will tell you, ‘Look, we need police — we just need them to be good,’” Foxx said.