New Cook County state's attorney says she'll be a regular at suburban courthouses

  • Chief Cook County Judge Timothy Evans swears in Kim Foxx as state's attorney on Dec. 1.

    Chief Cook County Judge Timothy Evans swears in Kim Foxx as state's attorney on Dec. 1. Sun-Times Photo

 
 
Updated 12/5/2016 6:17 PM

New Cook County State's Attorney Kim Foxx said Monday a top priority as she takes the helm of the prosecutor's office is to get to know issues and staff at suburban courthouses.

"It's incredibly important for me not to introduce myself by way of memo, but to go in person and introduce myself and my executive team to the troops," Foxx, of Flossmoor, said. Previously an assistant state's attorney in juvenile court, Foxx said, "I will tell you, we always wondered, do people know we're here? ... And that does impede morale."

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Fox visited juvenile courts and the George N. Leighton Criminal Court Building in Chicago on Monday and plans upcoming stops at courthouses in Rolling Meadows, Skokie and Markham. They won't be one-time visits, she says.

"If I'm wholly reliant on people relaying information to me then I'm not going to be effective on how we implement policy," she said. "For some (employees) it will be a bit of a culture shock, that you're showing up not to get people in trouble. That's what we're going to do today, say we will be back. Don't hurry and vacuum the floors. I want them to be able to come and tell me their ideas. They know best."

Foxx replaces River Forest Democrat Anita Alvarez, who during the campaign was criticized by Foxx for waiting 13 months to charge Chicago police officer Jason Van Dyke in the shooting death of Laquan McDonald, 17.

Foxx says she is reviewing her office's authority to investigate police shootings, instead of waiting for the Independent Police Review Authority to complete reports. She plans to create a new gun crimes unit and to improve bond court, which she says is viewed "universally" as "not doing what it is designed to do."

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A former chief of staff to Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle, Foxx said her decisions won't be swayed by Preckwinkle's influence, but said her insight into how the chief county office is run will help as she makes a case for the state's attorney's budget each year.

Foxx noted she "poached" a key member of Preckwinkle's staff, hiring budget analyst Brenski Coleman as her chief financial officer.

"He knew the budget inside and out. He was tasked to go find efficiencies, and he could make the case," she said of Coleman.

"That's what we're doing right now," she said. "Just coming in the door we're looking at little things. Every executive staff member had their own assistant. Can you have one assistant serve three people? And save money and put it in other places."

Foxx, who grew up in Chicago's Cabrini Green housing project, said she is humbled by her selection as the county's first black female state's attorney. Cook County is the second largest court system in the nation, after Los Angeles County.

"Having put my hand on the Bible with my daughters, who are African-American girls, beside me ... that they are a part of living history has made this moment very significant for me," she said. "There's a tremendous amount of responsibility I feel being the first, and I know it comes with a certain level of obligation and scrutiny."

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