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Morning Shift

Cook County State’s Attorney Says Budget Cut Would Be ‘Painful’

Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx said Thursday that a proposed $4 million cut to her office’s budget would be “painful” and would cause her to reduce staff. 

Earlier this month, Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle warned of a 10 percent budget cut if a proposed soda tax does not go into effect by August 1.

“We are already strained,” Foxx said on WBEZ’s Morning Shift. “Any reductions in staff will be very painful for us because we’re doing the best we can with what we have, with the violence that we’re seeing in our communities, with what’s happening again around the civil asset forfeiture and other issues that we’re taking on. A loss of staff would be very difficult for us to absorb.”

Foxx also discussed a recent WBEZ report indicating that a comprehensive jobs program to combat the city’s gun violence would cost about $1.1 billion for the first year.

“I think you have to take on those types of projects,” Foxx told Morning Shift host Jenn White. “We make a lot of moral choices where we invest our budgetary dollars, and I don’t think we’ve seen us make the investments that we need to in these disadvantaged communities.”

Below are highlights from the conversation, which also touched on how Foxx’s office is responding to police-involved shootings differently from her predecessor, Anita Alvarez.

On funding a jobs program to combat violence

Kim Foxx: I think what’s happened that we’ve seen particularly in those communities that have been hardest hit by violence and are the most economically depressed is that we’ve eaten around the edges for decades. And our response to the violence that has erupted out of all of those conditions is investment in penal institutions. So the struggle is, when you look at neighborhoods where we have the most people returning from our criminal justice system, they’re moving to these terribly economically-depressed neighborhoods where they don’t have access to jobs, where we have some of our most underperforming schools, where we have children and adults living with the trauma of the violence — in an absence of mental health services — where we have people struggling with addiction — in the absence of public health services — and saying that the solution is simply to enhance sentencing. This is not going to move the needle at all. And sometimes exacerbates the situation. 

So I think it takes truth-telling — like the boldness of saying, “We know it takes wraparound. It takes economics.” Where are we willing to put our investments? We make a lot of moral choices where we invest our budgetary dollars, and I don’t think we’ve seen us make the investments that we need to in these disadvantaged communities, largely because we have not talked about those issues, and we’ve framed this as a morality argument. I think that has hurt, particularly, people of color and poor people of color, when we’ve decided that they don’t deserve those services because violence is a choice and not a result of the conditions that we’ve just talked about.

On a possible budget cut if a soda tax does not take effect

Foxx: We’re the second largest prosecutor’s office in the country but we do far more than just criminal cases. We are also the lawyers for the county in civil cases. So anytime anyone gets hurt at the jail, on county roads, worker’s compensation — we’re their lawyers and we are woefully understaffed. So any reductions in staff will be very painful for us because we’re doing the best we can with what we have, with the violence that we’re seeing in our communities, with what’s happening again around the civil asset forfeiture and other issues that we’re taking on. A loss of staff would be very difficult for us to absorb.

On how her office is approaching police-involved shootings differently than her predecessor 

Foxx: What we’ve done differently is rather than having waited for the Independent Police Review Authority (IPRA) to conclude their investigations in cases and then hand the cases to us, on new cases that we’ve seen we’ve had our assistant state’s attorneys out and involved much earlier — on the scene on the same day — and we’re pulling together other law enforcement agencies to help us investigate these cases, whether it’s from the FBI or other agencies. 

And they’re doing analysis and looking at those cases quickly. In one case, sadly, we had an off-duty officer who was involved in a shooting where we had people on the ground immediately. It took us two weeks to review that case and we charged in that case. A month later we had an Amtrak officer who was on duty who was alleged to have shot someone in the back as they were fleeing. It took us nine days to come to a charge and decision in that case, and we charged in that case. 

But not every case is going to be charged. Not every case should be charged. In the same way that we have that high level of scrutiny, we also must maintain justice and not charge officers simply because the public believes that that’s what we should do, but because the law and the facts and the evidence say so.

What I know is that when we don’t make those charges, and because that distrust exists, we want to have an extra set of eyes. So we went down to Springfield to have legislation passed that would allow the Illinois State Appellate Prosecutor’s Office to look at cases in which we are inclined to decline. And say, “Did we miss anything? Do you see something here?” — another review to validate our work, or invalidate it, so that the public, when we make that decision, knows that we didn’t do it in isolation, that we are not afraid to have our work reviewed and that the public can find some measure of security in knowing that we’re trying to be as transparent as we can.

This interview has been edited for clarity and brevity. Click the “play” button to hear the entire segment.

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