CRIMINAL ALLEGATIONS VS. COPS IN COOK COUNTY CAN BE FILED ONLINE
State’s Attorney Kim Foxx Thursday introduced a new online form the public can use to report potential criminal misconduct by police officers in Cook County.
Foxx, citing an increase in allegations of criminal misconduct against law enforcement officials, said the form, available on the office’s website, was created in response to a “growing frustration that in a lot of these cases, we [prosecutors] aren’t notified by [investigating authorities] until late in the process.”
This way citizens can report the allegations directly to prosecutors, Foxx said in an interview with the Chicago Sun-Times.
In the past, the state’s attorney’s office hasn’t been notified of allegations of criminal police misconduct until weeks or months after they have been reported to agencies like the Civilian Office of Police Accountability, which investigates complaints against Chicago police officers.
In the case of officer-involved shootings, the state’s attorney’s office tends “to be involved very early on, but in some of these other instances, we may not get the information for some time,” the top prosecutor said.
Some other instances Foxx referred to include allegations of excessive force, officers soliciting or accepting bribes, intimidation and reckless driving.
Individuals can use the new online Police Criminal Misconduct Complaint Form to report potential police misconduct that occurs anywhere in Cook County, as well as upload potential evidence, like photos and videos.
The link to the form can be found after clicking on the Law Enforcement Accountability Unit tab currently at the top of the homepage of the state’s attorney’s website.
Foxx spokeswoman Tandra Simonton said the office is working on making the website more accessible as part of a longterm redesign project that would potentially make the form easier to locate.
Officials in the state’s attorney’s office’s Law Enforcement Accountability Division — previously known as the Public Integrity Unit — will look over the complaints and determine whether the matter should be referred to an investigative agency.
A complainant will get an email informing them of the unit’s decision and, if merited, will be provided contact information for the agency investigating the complaint. If an investigating body is looking into the case, prosecutors will track the matter to gauge when there is enough evidence to possibly bring charges.
Complainants will not be allowed to submit allegations against officers anonymously, Foxx said.
“Police officers, like anyone else, have the right to confront those who accuse them,” she said. “If someone believes they have been the victim of a crime, any crime, we would need to know who they are and their willingness to cooperate.”
Foxx said the creation of the form should not be interpreted as her office having lost faith in COPA and other investigative agencies’ ability to review complaints against police.
“This should be interpreted as a way for us to meet our mandate of looking for possible criminal charges arising out of these types of incidents,” Foxx said.
COPA, for example, looks at administrative issues, Foxx said, while the state’s attorney’s office would be looking to potentially bring criminal charges against the officers if they believe the allegations can be proven in court.
“I believe this is a way to efficiently try to do both in real time,” she said.
Misconduct that does not “arise to the level of criminal behavior,” such as rudeness, sexual harassment, discrimination and drinking on duty should still be directed to COPA or to the investigating police department, the state’s attorney said.
Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx says citizens can report potential criminal allegations against police officers directly to prosecutors.