Cook County state's attorney candidates talk about police shootings
Monday, January 18, 2016
by Frank Byrne
Questions about how to handle police shootings in a post-Laquan McDonald Cook County took center stage Monday as the three candidates for the Democratic nomination for state's attorney appeared together at a Martin Luther King Jr. Day forum on community justice.
State's attorney Anita Alvarez and the two women vying to unseat her — Donna More and Kim Foxx — spoke at the Community Renewal Society's Faith in Action Assembly, where organizers pressed them on whether they would agree to a special prosecutor in all police shooting cases.
Alvarez, who has faced stiff criticism for her handling of the investigation into the fatal 2014 shooting of black teen McDonald by a white Chicago police officer, reiterated her opposition to a special prosecutor. She said the law requires "a legal conflict" in a case for the state's attorney to be replaced. "So it's not as easy as people think it is," Alvarez said.
She defended her record on police prosecutions. "Any officer who commits a crime should be held accountable," Alvarez said to a smattering of boos. "I've been doing it, I will continue to do it and there's no need for a special prosecutor."
Alvarez's opposition to the special prosecutor prompted the crowd of about 1,000 attendees from church congregations around Chicago and the suburbs to stand and pray in unison that God "transforms your heart and bends your mind toward justice."
More also said she would keep police prosecutions in-house at the state's attorney's office, saying she instead would create a section within the office where attorneys work only on those cases to avoid conflicts of interest with members of the Police Department. More also received the standing prayer.
Only Foxx said she would ask for a special prosecutor. "There is an inherent conflict of interest because of the intimate relationship between the prosecutor's office and the police, and to suggest that doesn't exist is disingenuous," she said.
Monday's forum was held less than a week after the Cook County Democratic Party reversed course and endorsed the little-known Foxx, who is backed by Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle. The party had previously decided not to make an endorsement in the race.
The three sat shoulder to shoulder in folding chairs at the front of the room in a West Town church. There appeared to be very little small talk taking place among them during the event.