Lightford041619The image of more than 40 white, male Suburban Chiefs of Police, standing with the Chicago Fraternal Order of Police to chastise and call for the resignation of Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx over her handling of the Jussie Smollett case and her management of the office should disturb all Cook County residents and anyone who supports efforts to reform our criminal justice system. Skepticism is the natural reaction when there are calls for increased “law and order” and tired and misguided epithets such as “soft on crime.” These misguided and outdated positions are undoubtedly what helped create the wrong-headed and fiscally imprudent policies which gave rise to the failed “War on Drugs,” militarization of law enforcement agencies, explosion of our prison population, the policies that have fueled the school to prison pipeline, destroyed and dismantled countless families and continued the marginalization of black, brown and poor communities.

The outrage of the Chicago FOP and the suburban Chiefs of Police is amazingly ironic considering these same individuals stood silent or had no response other than to blame the communities where the violence is occurring in regards to the uptick in homicides, Jason Van Dyke’s virtual slap on the wrist for murdering Laquan McDonald or ignoring the nearly $500 million that Chicago taxpayers spent on police misconduct cases since 2011. That’s in addition to the nearly $3 million they will have to pay annually to oversee a federal consent decree to monitor law enforcement – community interactions. The hypocrisy and irony is mind-blowing as these officials decry the $130,000 spent to investigate the Smollett case.

The Illinois Legislative Black Caucus has worked with both the State’s Attorney and law enforcement to improve the quality of life for the communities we represent, but there must be open and honest conversations about the realities which exist in these communities who feel over-surveilled, under siege and devalued. It is certainly not lost on the communities we represent that the individuals, none of whom are African-American, standing with the Chicago FOP were the leaders of their respective Departments. This fact begs the question: How can we ever expect to repair the relations between law enforcement and the communities they serve, if law enforcement leadership fundamentally disagrees that our criminal justice system needs reform?

Yes, State’s Attorney Foxx is African-American, and this provides her and the members of our caucus with a unique perspective on the daily impact of the policies of marginalization and disinvestment. She has worked with our caucus as we have led the fight in this country to implement policies which will reform our criminal justice system, such as moving away from the use of cash bail for nonviolent offenders, rightsizing and modernizing our thinking on prosecuting retail theft or how we approach the crisis of low-level drug offenders and their addictions, while also working together to pass legislation targeting repeat gun offenders, gun-runners and criminal enterprises. Our caucus stands with State’s Attorney Foxx because she is a State’s Attorney who is working with us to reform a criminal justice system that has marginalized and destroyed communities for far too long.

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