CHICAGO — The office of Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx said the police department sought felony charges in 25 cases out of more than 100 arrests made Monday amid a night of rampant looting in the city’s commercial center. Twenty-four have been approved.
The charges include, but are not limited to, aggravated battery of a police officer, criminal damage to property, unlawful use of a weapon and burglary/looting. All cases were in bond court on Tuesday.
“Cases continue to be reviewed and investigated by law enforcement and we will continue to file felony charges if appropriate,” Foxx’s office said in a statement.
Concerns about the effectiveness of progressive justice reforms on the city, county and state level in Illinois have surfaced since extensive looting early Monday left the city’s central business district devastated, as hundreds of people flocked downtown following reports on social media of a police shooting.
About 100 people were arrested, but it is not clear how many will be charged with felonies by Foxx, who was elected in late 2016 on a platform that addressed the criminal justice system as broken for how it unfairly punishes poor people and racial minorities. On Monday, Foxx told reporters that she stands by the reforms she has put in place, which include raising the standard for felony charges from a minimum of $300 to $1,000 in stolen goods.
That has frustrated Chicago Police Superintendent David Brown, who since the unrest in June following George Floyd’s killing in Minneapolis has complained publicly that repeat offenders are being cycled through the court system because of low bail amounts and an inefficient electronic monitoring system.
A Chicago Tribune investigation found that Foxx’s office dropped all charges against nearly 30 percent of felony defendants during her first three years in office. During the same period under predecessor Anita Alvarez, the rate was 19 percent.
Foxx struck a defensive tone Monday and said that “all hands on deck means that rather than standing and pointing fingers, we work together.” She also said that the police department has been slow to bring her office felony cases. Of the 5,000 arrests made after Floyd’s killing through late June, only 29 percent were felony cases, she said.
“Our office is not in the arresting business. We get cases when they are brought to us,” she said.
City and state officials have said the system is broken. In a statement, Alderman Gilbert Villegas said that Foxx’s office “has unfortunately created an environment where criminals do not fear legal consequences.” He called for “immediate policy changes” in her office “to further compel the courts and our judges to address this public safety crisis immediately.”
Illinois Sen. Bill Brady, a Republican, agreed. On Twitter he said that “leaders at the city, state, and federal levels” need “to do everything they can to ensure those who perpetrated these crimes are prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.”
Foxx’s office did not respond to repeated requests for comment.
Timothy C. Evans, chief judge of the Circuit Court of Cook County, weighed in to defend the court’s bail practices, saying in a statement Monday that “while the case is pending, the court’s bail decisions must balance the right of the defendant to be presumed innocent with any evidence that the defendant would pose a real and present threat to the physical safety of any person.”
Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot said Tuesday that she talked with Foxx about the importance of charging the looters with felonies. “There is always a tension that’s there” between both offices, she said. “What we are focusing on is not the tension, but how we can strengthen the partnership.”
“I know every police officer wants everything to be a felony, but it is up to the prosecutor to determine that. … There has been an evolution in the requirements,” she said. “We want to build the strongest case possible with as much evidence as possible and that’s what we will continue to do.”
Lightfoot said police are scanning hundreds of hours of video from city-owned and store-operated cameras to strengthen the cases they present to Foxx. “We are doing everything we can, sparing no resource, to bring [the looters] to justice,” she said.