Endorsement: Alvarez slow on police shooting; we back Foxx
The national debate over shootings by police in the black community erupted in Ferguson, Missouri, a year and a half ago with the death of unarmed 18-year-old Michael Brown in August 2014.
Since then, controversial police conduct has been cited in several cases across the country.
In many of these cases, the rightfulness or wrongfulness of the police action has been difficult to determine, and we've been left frustrated with an eye-of-the-beholder kind of judgment. Those who trust police tend to give them the benefit of the doubt; those who distrust tend to believe the worst.
Few cases are as shockingly and appallingly clear as the shooting death of 17-year-old Laquan McDonald at the hands of a Chicago police officer on October 20, 2014. Not only does the video suggest that McDonald's death was grossly unjustifiable, but the evidence also indicates that authorities lied to cover up what the courts may find to be coldblooded murder.
Even worse, this seems to be a pattern of police culture in Chicago, where the Chicago Tribune reports the city almost routinely hands out settlements on claims of fatal shootings, wrongful prosecutions and police brutality -- 1,100 settlements since 2009!
To be clear, we believe most police are good and even-heroic people who risk their lives doing difficult jobs. Sometimes, they are forced to make split-second decisions that mean life or death, theirs or someone else's. It's a difficult job, and we commend those who commit themselves to protect and serve.
But the bad cops among them cannot be tolerated.
We're in no position to question the intentions of Cook County State's Attorney Anita Alvarez to prosecute police officers who break the law. She made a good case speaking to our editorial board the other day about the difficulty of obtaining a conviction against a police officer because the law provides for some allowance of the use of deadly force.
"Police shootings, they're more complex," she said.
We don't doubt that. Still, by Alvarez's own account, the average length nationally of a police shooting investigation is 261 days.
In the case of Laquan McDonald, it took Alvarez 400 days. That's more than a year. It was long after the city of Chicago had settled the civil case. And more than 50 percent longer than the national average she cites.
Where is the swift justice in that?
We endorse Kim Foxx in the Democratic primary for Cook County state's attorney. We are impressed by the array of administrative experience Foxx adds to her legal background.
She recognizes the inherent conflict prosecutors have in their relationships with the police who partner with them in law enforcement and makes a strong argument for the use of an independent state's appellate prosecutor to handle cases of police-involved crime.
We believe she would re-energize and reform the state's attorney's office and bring innovative ideas to strengthen the criminal justice system in Illinois. A third candidate in the race, Donna More, appears competent and experienced, but we prefer the leadership ability and skill set that Foxx displays.
Her election would be a strong signal that bad cops will be prosecuted in Cook County.