On Dec 1st, 2016, I had the honor of being sworn in as Cook County State’s Attorney. I took my oath at a critical time for our county, as we continue to grapple with tragically high levels of violence and troublingly low levels of confidence in our criminal justice system. The gravity of the moment – and the challenges that lie ahead – demand immediate action.
Improving public safety is my top priority, and I am supported in this vital work by the hundreds of talented prosecutors and thousands of dedicated law enforcement officers who have devoted their careers to fighting crime, and advocating for victims. I am also mindful, however, that we cannot fully address our public safety crisis without first taking steps to restore trust and increase accountability and transparency. I made that commitment as a candidate, and plan to fulfill that commitment as State’s Attorney. In turn, I will demand and expect that same commitment from all of our Assistant State’s Attorneys, law enforcement partners, and the community at large.
The core work of the State’s Attorney’s Office is and always will be addressing crime and achieving justice for victims. The urgency of this work is clear. Last month, Chicago saw its 700th homicide of the year; more than 3,300 more people have been victims of non-fatal shootings. I am committed to working tirelessly with stakeholders across the justice system to address the tragedy of gun violence, including combating gun trafficking and developing data-driven prosecution of gun cases.
But public safety isn’t simply achieved through aggressive enforcement and incarceration. We must also invest in efforts to address the underlying drivers of much of our non-violent crime, including mental illness, addiction, and lack of economic opportunity. Community courts, specialty courts and diversion programs are important tools in our efforts to reduce recidivism, use taxpayer dollars more efficiently and make our streets safer. We will continue to evaluate and expand effective alternative programs as part of our broader public safety strategy.
Finally, we cannot ignore the reality that lack of trust in the justice system, and perceptions of the unfairness of the State’s Attorney’s office, undermine our best efforts to protect public safety. In order to achieve the progress we need, we must tackle those issues of trust head on. I am committing to the people of Cook County that we will embrace transparency as a critical element of reform. We will acknowledge and confront racial disparities in a system that too often perpetuates injustice. And we will be proactive in engaging with our communities – improving how we work with victims, publicly distributing information about our efforts, collaborating with new partners and stakeholders, and developing a two-way dialogue with the community.
I have outlined my plan for instituting these reforms in my new administration’s transition report. You can read the full report here.
To be sure, the kind of changes I am proposing will take time. Our criminal justice system will not transform overnight. But the 5.2 million residents of Cook County deserve a better system, one that is driven not by a “win at any cost” mentality, but by a persistent quest for justice, in whatever form that takes in a particular case. This quest for justice is how we will earn the community’s trust and build bridges to improve public safety. And while it will take long, hard work, I believe that a reformed criminal justice system that is more responsive to the people and more responsible in the pursuit of justice is a win-win for us all.
Kimberly M. Foxx
Cook County State's Attorney