A state lawmaker criticized a south suburban police group’s participation in an event at which police called for Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx to resign for dismissing charges against “Empire” actor Jussie Smollett.
State Rep. Thaddeus Jones, D-Calumet City, raised questions in public social media posts about the South Suburban Association of Chiefs Of Police standing with the Chicago Fraternal Order of Police Thursday at a news conference in Chicago.
Jones expressed his view that the 30 or so Chicago police officials and suburban police chiefs —mostly from northern and western suburbs — created a problem with optics and race as they stood behind a podium and called for a black woman’s resignation.
“So, a list of all white suburban police chiefs gather to call for the resignation of the state’s attorney,” Jones wrote Thursday evening on Facebook. “Why would any south suburban police chief get involved in the actions of the Chicago FOP?
“I have a suggestion for these police chiefs,” Jones wrote. “How about you do your job and run your police departments first.”
Jones questioned whether any south suburban mayors granted permission for police chiefs to participate in the event.
The SSACOP said in a March 31 letter that its members present at a March 28 meeting voted unanimously “to stand in solidarity with our fellow West and North Suburban Police Chief Associations in a ‘vote of no confidence’ of Foxx.”
“The south suburbs represent over one million residents and many of those communities suffer due to inconsistent prosecution and often time’s lack of accountability for crime, both in the adult and juvenile law,” the letter said.
The letter was signed by SSACOP President Jack Touhy, chief of the police department at Saint Xavier University in Chicago’s Mount Greenwood neighborhood.
“Kim Foxx’s lack of leadership and vision has added to the disdain criminals display toward crime in general and the communities where they commit their crimes,” Touhy wrote.
The SSACOP membership represents more than 75 south suburban police and public safety departments, as well as the Chicago Police Department, Cook County sheriff’s office, Illinois State Police and several federal agencies, the university said in a December press release about Touhy’s election as president of the organization.
Jones expressed frustration about the SSACOP’s decision to protest Foxx’s handling of the Smollett case.
“Not one of these police chiefs have held a joint press conference about the shootings, killings and daily murders in the south suburbs,” Jones wrote. “Yet they decide to join the Chicago FOP about a case decision? That’s selective advocating and it’s not right.”
It is unclear how many south suburban police chiefs participated in Thursday’s event. Touhy was present, and the group had asked members to show up in a March 31 post on the group’s Facebook page.
“Each Police Chief’s Association is requested to show solidarity by attending the press conference in large numbers,” the group said in a post attributed to Touhy. “As the SSACOP is the largest association I would ask that we display a large presence.”
Jones’ criticism of the SSACOP’s participation is among the latest controversies related to the Smollett case. Smollett, who is African-American and openly gay, has said he was walking in Chicago’s Streeterville neighborhood at about 2 a.m. Jan. 29 when two men wearing masks attacked him, shouted racial and homophobic slurs and placed a noose around his neck.
Chicago police initially began a hate crime investigation but eventually said their investigation showed Smollett, 36, staged the attack.
On Friday, Touhy said he was unaware of the criticism by Jones.
“We have met several times as an organization with Kim Foxx and have not come away with much progress,” Touhy said. “Certainly our organization is always open to further dialogue.”
Since her election in 2016, Foxx has pushed for reform of the cash bond system to ensure nonviolent detainees who can’t post small amounts of money don’t languish in jail, moved to deprioritize certain nonviolent crimes such as shoplifting and halted prosecutions of people accused of driving on licenses that have been suspended or revoked for financial reasons — such as failure to pay child support, tolls or parking tickets, the Chicago Tribune reported.
In a letter similar to the one issued by the SSACOP, the North Suburban Association of Chiefs of Police criticized the state’s attorney for not prosecuting people for thefts and traffic offenses.
“It appears your strategy to address non-violent crime in Cook County is to decriminalize or ignore it,” the NSACOP wrote. “These decisions add to the continuing resource burden on police agencies.”
Touhy declined further comment. Jones did not immediately respond Friday to requests for comment. Hazel Crest Police Chief Mitchell Davis, vice president of the SSACOP, referred questions about the matter to Touhy.
Foxx’s office on Friday declined comment about Jones’ criticism of the SSACOP and provided a statement in response to the FOP’s call for her resignation.
“I was elected by the people of Cook County to pursue community safety, prevent harm, and uphold the values of fairness and equal justice,” Foxx said in the statement. “I’m proud of my record in doing that, and I plan to do so through the end of my term and, if the people so will it, into the future.”
Foxx has faced a firestorm of criticism after her office dismissed a 16-count felony indictment against Smollett without the actor acknowledging guilt during an unannounced court hearing on March 26.
Jones’ criticism of the SSACOP capped a week in which other public figures expressed support for Foxx and questioned to what extent race has factored into criticism of the state’s attorney.
On Monday, the Rev. Michael Pfleger, the Rev. Jesse L. Jackson Sr. and community activists criticized the FOP during a news conference.
“The attack on Kim Foxx is not about Jussie Smollett,” Pfleger said, the Chicago Crusader reported. “That’s a front; rather it is an attempt to try and remove a person who is a threat to the old boy’s system of power in the city and in this state.”
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Region: South Suburbs,Opinion
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April 5, 2019 at 05:00PM