Kim Foxx: Candidate profile, Cook County state's attorney
Incumbent Democrat Kim Foxx of Flossmoor faces a challenge from Republican Patrick W. O'Brien in the race for Cook County state's attorney.
Q: Why are you running for this office, whether for reelection or election for the first time? Is there a particular issue that motivates you? If so, what
Foxx. Since taking office as Cook County's State's Attorney in 2016, I have made measurable progress toward making our criminal justice system fair and safe for each person who calls Cook County home.
Under my leadership, violent crime has decreased each year (until COVID-19, as crime has trended upward across the country). I created a Gun Crimes Strategy Unit to get guns off our streets, pushed policies to make sure people of color are not unfairly treated in our bail system, vacated nearly 100 wrongful convictions, and many more progressive reforms.
But there's more work to be done. Changing a criminal justice system that has disproportionately affected Black and Brown people takes time. We must continue to build on the work my office has accomplished to make the system fair for all people.
In my next term as your state's attorney, I am committed to finding solutions to make Cook County safe, equitable and fair for every person by prioritizing violent crime, promoting transparency, and focusing on data-driven policies.
Q: How pertinent is the Jussie Smollett case to this election? If it should have been handled differently, how so?
Foxx: The Smollett case received a lot of attention, and my first impulse was to request a nonpolitical review by the inspector general, which my office requested.
In addition, outside critics called for a special prosecutor investigation and Dan Webb was appointed. The investigation ultimately revealed no illegal activity in how my office handled this case, no outside influence, and that I had no part in the final decision of Smollett's charges.
I am committed to having the most transparent prosecutor's office in the nation, which is why I created an online information system that allows public access to every felony case since 2011 and information on more than 350,000 felony offenders.
At the end of the day, we are committed to strengthening the public's trust in our office, and we will continue to prioritize community relationships in the future.
Q: How pertinent is criminal justice reform to this election? What should the state's attorney's office be doing in regards to that issue?
Foxx. In order to ensure public safety, we need to restore credibility in our system. I was elected to enact criminal justice reform; and, thus, it is necessary to highlight the policies implemented by my office.
My office shifted resources to prioritize violent crime and, as a result, the conviction rate has increased. We implemented progressive bail reform policies for those charged with low-level misdemeanors, who do not pose a threat to public safety.
After the legalization of recreational cannabis, we were instrumental in expunging thousands of records for individuals with low-level marijuana charges, removing the barrier for one's ability to find employment, obtain housing, and access critical resources.
It is my responsibility and commitment to ensure no matter someone's race, how much money they make, or where they live within Cook County -- they are treated fairly and with dignity.
Q: What can be done about violent crime in Cook County?
Foxx: For the first three years in my role as State's Attorney, Cook County saw fewer violent crimes. My office increased the prosecution of violent crimes and secured over 2,700 more violent felony convictions than my predecessor.
This year, due to COVID-19, Cook County is experiencing an unprecedented rise in crime, which is reflective of the trend of increases in crime in major cities and counties across the country as well. The bottom line is we all want to feel safe no matter where we call home, regardless if we are in the middle of a global pandemic.
My office is the last responder when it comes to crimes, but is a critical piece to curbing these recent trends. My office will continue to work closely with our first, second, and third responders who are handling these crimes before they arrive at my office. All public servants within our criminal justice system must work together to ensure people are treated fairly and Cook County is safe.
We do this by coordinating our COVID-19 responses, such as with our review of jail populations or ensuring the public has access to critical services, when everything is temporarily closed.
Q: How satisfied are you with the job police have done in responding to widespread protests that have taken place in the last several months? What role should the state's attorney's office play?
Foxx: People have a right to peacefully protest. Against the backdrop of the killings of so many Black and Brown individuals, our communities deserve justice. People need to make their voices heard, and with the passing of Rep. John Lewis, it is our responsibility to carry the torch he left behind.
However, there is a difference between protesting and looting. When people set out to steal and destroy property, not just in the Central Business District, but small businesses/shops on the South and West side, this is criminal. My office works closely with law enforcement as they bring these cases to prosecute.
In August, immediately following the protests, the police arrested 43 people in the city of Chicago and my office has brought forth charges against 42 of them. This work with our police departments must continue, especially now with the anomaly of violence we have experienced, so we can ensure Cook County is safe.
Q: What is your position on "defunding" police departments. If you're in favor of reallocated resources, please be specific on what resources would be reallocated and where they would be spent.
Foxx: We are in a transformational moment to change a system that is deeply rooted in systemic racism. I support a shifting of resources. "Business as usual" needs to change when it comes to our police departments and for violence experienced in our hardest hit communities.
We must closely re-examine the Fraternal Order of Police's influence on the Chicago Police Department. We need to look very closely when Black and Brown people are shot by police, and we need to offer meaningful support in communities that are burdened by violence and lack access to opportunities by providing programs that promote alternatives.
Ultimately, police-involved shootings shake public trust, and my office will continue to be transparent in our investigations of police-involved shootings.
Q: What crime should be the office's top target. Drugs? Gang violence? Child sex abuse? Something else? Why? What steps will you take to address the priorities as you see them?
Foxx: My office's top priority is making sure violent crimes are prosecuted and that we are curbing the rate of violence across Cook County. Serious acts of violence include cases of gun violence, homicide, sex crimes, aggravated battery, violence against police officers, robbery, domestic battery, and kidnapping.
These cases represent the largest percentage of the cases prosecuted by the Cook County State's Attorney's Office. The conviction rate on these cases has increased from 81% to 83% under the Foxx Administration. The state's attorney's office is committed to allocating our resources so our prosecutors can pursue violent felony crimes instead of low-level offenses, which can still go through our court system as misdemeanors.
However, we are experiencing a year unlike any other, and my office will continue to look for innovative solutions to disrupt a criminal justice system rooted in systemic racism that historically and disproportionately impacted communities of color and low-income individuals.