The Westside Branch NAACP hosted a forum on Feb. 5 at Christ the King Jesuit College Preparatory School, 5088 W. Jackson Blvd., for the three candidates currently in the running to lead the Cook County State’s Attorney’s (SA) office. Only two candidates, however, showed up — Donna More, a former state and federal prosecutor who has been in private practice since 1995, and Kim Foxx, a former Cook County assistant state’s attorney and former chief of staff to Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle. Anita Alvarez, the incumbent Cook County State’s Attorney, was absent.
Below are summaries of More’s and Foxx’s comments on several issues that were brought up during Friday’s forum. The candidates’ response times ranged from 30 seconds for audience questions to two minutes for opening and closing remarks.
On the lack of diversity in the SA:
Foxx: She noted that under Alvarez, the SA hasn’t been a good place for minorities to work. She said she would implement a chief diversity officer, in addition to a diversity panel, in order to increase the number of minorities in key positions of influence in the office, such as first chairs, or lead prosecutors.
More: She said when she “first went into a felony trial court at 26th and California, my first first chair was African-American” and that “we probably had the most diverse courtroom there.” She said her second chair was female. More said she wouldn’t delegate hiring “to other people, you actually participate in going to the law schools, interviewing people and making sure you not only get the best people but you also get the diverse group.” She also advocated that the office “promote based on the training” in order to get more diversity.
On navigating the relationship between the SA and the police department and its union, the Fraternal Order of Police.
More: She said that the police and the State’s Attorney’s office have both “lost all credibility in the communities” and that each needs to rebuild credibility. She advocated for more joint training and for a clearer line of demarcation between appropriate policing and misconduct. “The problem right now, I believe, is that the State’s Attorney has not said, ‘There’s a line.'” More said Alvarez is more concerned with politics than reform.
She said she disagreed with Foxx’s idea for a special prosecutor in officer-involved shootings (see below); instead, advocating for a special unit within the SA “composed of former assistant U.S. Attorneys, so they have no relationship with Chicago police.” She also noted that she’d use the grand jury more effectively and “have the group report to me directly” to bolster transparency.
Foxx: She noted that the relationship between the SA and the police is close, since the former relies on the latter to “conduct investigations and bring cases to them.” She said that “holding police officers accountable for their conduct is the responsibility of the [SA] and the [SA] hasn’t done that.” She said despite the prevalence of police torture throughout the city’s history, for instance, no police officer has been prosecuted for torture by the SA.
“We always talk about brutality without accountability.” She said people both within the police department and SA need to be held accountable for their actions and recommended an independent inspector general for the office. She also said a special prosecutor should be called on in officer-involved shootings.
How would you have handled the Laquan McDonald case differently?
More: The whole world watched that video tape and there was only one person who didn’t think there was probable cause at the time [the murder] was committed and that’s our current state’s attorney. “If I were state’s attorney and viewed that video tape and also had in my position the police report, which she’s had and which showed that officers who witnessed it were lying, we would’ve had probable cause to indict based on the video tape.”
Foxx: “It’s quite clear that the [SA] did not need 400 days to charge this case. In addition to the police officer who shot and killed this young man, there were additional officers who have yet to be held accountable for their official misconduct. We know we should’ve done better by [McDonald] in having this case charged sooner.”