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Kim Foxx may stop prosecuting drug and gun cases stemming from some traffic stops

Cook County State's Attorney suggests not prosecuting drug or gun charges from minor traffic stops
Cook County State's Attorney suggests not prosecuting drug or gun charges from minor traffic stops 00:57

CHICAGO (CBS) -- Cook County State's Attorney Kim Foxx is exploring a new policy that would direct prosecutors to reject gun and drug charges stemming from some traffic stops.

Under a draft policy that is still under consideration, prosecutors would not file drug, gun, and theft charges in cases that begin with minor traffic stops such as broken tail lights or having an expired vehicle registration.

Foxx said the policy is meant to end pretextual traffic stops that disproportionately target people of color, and rarely end in an arrest.

"In fact, data reveals that only 1 in 1,000 of these stops result in the discovery of a gun. More importantly, the psychological and emotional toll these stops inflict, particularly on Black and Brown drivers, is immeasurable and undermines the trust between law enforcement and the communities they serve," Foxx said in a statement on the draft policy.

Foxx said her office it is working with local police and other partners to "refine and implement a policy that truly serves the best interests of our community" before making any actual policy change.

The draft policy is being floated in the wake of the death of Dexter Reed, who was shot and killed by police on March 21, during what police told the Civilian Office of Police Accountability was a traffic stop made because Reed was not wearing a seat belt.

While COPA has said Reed shot an officer in the wrist after he was pulled over, prompting three other officers to return fire, the agency has yet to rule on whether the traffic stop and subsequent shooting were justified. Chief administrator Andrea Kersten has questioned the veracity of the officers' claim that they pulled over Reed for a seat belt violation.

"Specifically, COPA is uncertain how the officers could have seen this seat belt violation given their location relative to [the] vehicle and the dark tints on vehicle windows," Kersten wrote in an April 1 letter to Chicago Police Supt. Larry Snelling. "This evidence raises serious concerns about the validity of the traffic stop that led to the officers' encounter."

Foxx said her proposed policy change is "a testament to our commitment to procedural justice and our resolve to address and rectify racial disparities within our legal system. We are listening to the voices in our community and taking meaningful steps to ensure a safer and more just future for all."

Data from a 2022 Chicago Office of Inspector General report found Black drivers were four times more likely to be pulled over than white drivers.

The inspector general's office analyzed nearly 2 ½ years of police stops and use-of-force incidents from Oct. 17, 2017, through Feb. 28, 2020, and found "an overwhelming disparity in the rates at which Black and non-Black people were stopped by the police." Those disparities happen in every district of the Chicago Police Department, regardless of the district's racial makeup.

"Black people were overwhelmingly disproportionately stopped by CPD, regardless of the demographic composition and crime level in the district of the stop," the report stated. "Black people were disproportionately subjected to force, regardless of district demographic composition and district crime level."

Overall, Black people make up approximately 30% of the city's population, but made up 68% of investigatory stops by police, and 84% of use of force incidents after investigatory stops during that time. From there, CPD was more likely to use higher-level force options against Blacks than against non-Blacks.

"Decades of data demonstrate that these stops do not enhance public safety. Instead, they perpetuate a cycle of mistrust and fear, especially in under-resourced communities. This draft policy is a crucial step towards rebuilding that trust. It recognizes the disproportionate impact these stops have on communities of color and aims to eliminate practices that lead to unfair and unjust outcomes," Foxx said.

The policy is getting some blowback. Ald. Silvana Tabares (23rd) released a statement calling Foxx "reckless."

"This policy grants additional and extra protections to dangerous criminals using their vehicles to transfer weapons through our neighborhoods to commit crimes," Tabares said.

Former Ald. Bob Fioretti, who is the Republican nominee in the race to succeed Foxx as Cook County State's Attorney after she steps down at the end of her term in December, called the proposed policy change "a dereliction of duty that will cost lives in the very neighborhoods that need protection the most."

"Prosecutors must use every legal tool in the toolbox to get illegal guns off the street to keep our neighborhoods safe," he added.

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