Cook County State’s Attorney Kimberly M. Foxx today announced new legislation to add an additional layer of accountability in the prosecution of fatal officer-involved shootings.
Under HB 3355 and SB 1843, the existing Special Prosecutor Act would be amended to designate the Office of the State Appellate Prosecutor – a statewide office that has a unit dedicated to investigating complex cases including officer-involved shootings – as special prosecutor in officer-involved death cases. If the State’s Attorney’s Office’s investigation into an officer-involved death concludes that the officer should not be charged criminally, the State Appellate Prosecutor would be tasked with reviewing that investigation and making its own recommendation about whether charges were appropriate.
“The critical issue in fatal officer-involved shooting cases is how to conduct investigations and make charging decisions in a manner that is viewed as credible and legitimate by the involved parties and the public.” said Foxx. “Historically, there has been a lack of trust in how these cases are handled. That’s why I am seeking legislation that would provide the public with a second opinion review of these cases when my office concludes charges are not warranted.”
Under the proposed legislation, if the State Appellate Prosecutor reached a different conclusion than the State’s Attorney’s Office in a fatal officer-involved shooting, that finding would be made public, and the State’s Attorney would recuse herself from the prosecution of any charges in the case.
The bill is sponsored by State Representative Elgie Sims and Senator Kwame Raoul.
Since taking office in December, Foxx has already faced this issue several times, with her office filing first degree murder charges against two police officers in shooting cases. Her office also declined to pursue charges against the Chicago Police officer who shot and killed Quintonio LeGrier and Bettie Jones, releasing a public memo detailing the basis for that decision.
“These cases are not easy. While I believe wholeheartedly that my administration’s handling of fatal officer-involved shooting cases has demonstrated our ability to act promptly and fairly, I also recognize how important it is to rebuild trust and put structures in place that help ensure the integrity of the process,” Foxx said. “Providing for an independent review by a special prosecutor will help reassure the public that these decisions are being weighed carefully based on the evidence and without any political considerations.”
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