Amid a series of resignations at the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office, Board President Toni Preckwinkle told reporters she’s not concerned despite criticisms levied at the institution.
Questions have arisen as the county has seen nearly one-third of its prosecutors and staff resign within the last 12 months, according to officials.
State’s Attorney Kim Foxx – like others calling for reform across the country – are facing pushback from those who say the office is not tough enough on crime.
Foxx’s spokeswoman points to COVID and the so-called “great resignation” as some of the driving forces behind the high turnover.
Other nearby counties are not seeing the same turmoil, however, and for families of crime victims, waiting to see a case be prosecuted has been a frustrating process.
“We have seen five or six different state’s attorneys, they just keep switching,” Pat Peterman says.
Her son, Michael Peterman, was shot to death in Chicago five years ago. A suspect was arrested and is being held at the Cook County Jail, but Peterman’s family is still waiting for the trial.
His mother blames Kim Foxx’s leadership.
“She’s the person in charge, so yeah she’s responsible for everyone under you,” she says.
Dan Kirk, the former first assistant to state’s attorney Anita Alvarez, helped NBC 5 to break down the situation, pointing to the office losing more than 240 staffers in the last year.
For example, the Felony Review Unit has six teams and each team should have eight to 12 members, and currently, there are less than five.
“It’s historic, and not in a good way,” he says. “The Cook County Public Defender’s Office has not seen this mass attrition, this mass hemorrhaging. The Dupage County State’s Attorney’s Office, has not only not seen attrition, but they’ve actually grown in size.”
Preckwinkle, who recruited Foxx to run for State’s Attorney, had a one word “no” when asked if she’s concerned enough to speak to Foxx about the high turnover.
Foxx has championed criminal justice reform. One of the cornerstones of that reform, no-cash bail, will be put in place in January, but lawmakers may make last minute changes for serious offenses.
Other progressive prosecutors across the country have faced backlash for similar policies. In San Francisco, the lead prosecutor was recently recalled, and in Baltimore, the prosecutor faces a new federal indictment for mortgage fraud.
An Illinois Republican lawmaker has filed a bill to recall Foxx, but most believe it has little chance of moving forward.
Politics aside, families who are seeking justice simply want the system to work as intended, and for staffing issues to be addressed so that can happen in a more efficient manner.
“We want just want closure….well not closure, there’s not closure when you lose a child this way,” Peterman says. “We just want justice.”