By Larry Keane
Chicago residents have faced a rough few years. Former Mayor Lori Lightfoot refused to take crime seriously and lost reelection as a consequence. The county state’s attorney refused to hold violent criminals accountable even when their crimes were caught on camera.
It’s so bad, one veteran city prosecutor is calling it quits and moving his family. On his way out the door, he criticized the city’s leadership in a mic-drop letter.
“The simple fact is that this State and County have set themselves on a course to disaster,” wrote Jason Poje, a 20-year felony trial attorney.
Vicious and Violent Cycle
Poje’s 20 years of criminal justice system experience means he’s seen a lot. The recent crime surge and the city’s elected leadership’s continued doubling-down on soft-on-crime policies and attacks on law enforcement finally crossed the threshold.
During the height of the COVID pandemic, after Mayor Lightfoot instituted lockdowns and city-wide restrictions, criminals were released from jails, some committing violent crimes immediately, including murder. Prosecutors announced they wouldn’t prosecute law-breakers during the COVID-19 outbreak. Mayor Lightfoot dodged responsibility and cast the blame on the city’s police chief and even infamously argued with another city official who demanded action on the crime problem.
During the same stretch of heightened crime, the Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx, who oversees the City of Chicago, created an uproar after refusing to charge several criminals after a violent weekend incident. Criminals exchanged gunfire between cars and a home with police officers nearby. Tragically one person was killed. Five others were taken into custody. Despite the clear video evidence to charge the criminals, nothing was done.
It’s been a tragic cycle for innocent city residents. Poje had enough.
Poje’s resignation letter torched the policies he believes have destroyed Chicago, especially those coming out of State’s Attorney Foxx’s office. “The worst part is that the agency for whom I work has backed literally every policy change that had the predicable, and predicted, outcome of more crime and more people getting hurt,” Poje wrote. He blamed “the stupid State’s Attorney policies.”
Examples abound of the backwards lawlessness of Chicago’s crime policies that endangers and restricts law-abiding Chicagoans from protecting themselves from criminals who have no regard for the law and innocent human life.
Poje echoed those sentiments of frustrated Chicagoans.
“Many years ago my family found a nice quiet corner of the suburbs. Now my son, who is only 5, hears gunfire while playing at our neighborhood park, and a drug dealer is open-air selling behind my house (the second one in two years),” the retiring prosecutor wrote in his letter. “I will not raise my son here. I am fortunate enough to have the means to escape… and yet my own employer has turned it into a place from which I am no longer proud to be, and in which my son is not safe.”
Fox News reported Assistant Cook County State’s Attorney Jim Murphy also resigned last year in protest against Foxx’s ineptness too, writing on his own, “I wish I could stay. However, I can no longer work for this Administration. I have zero confidence in leadership.”
Chicago has a new mayor – Mayor Brandon Johnson – who pledged to be “smart” and “tough” on crime but initial promises sound like the hollow past promises. He wants to dedicate funds to youth employment along with collaboration with state officials. During an election debate before, Mayor Johnson acknowledged past comments describing the “defund the police” movement as “not just admirable, but is necessary.” Mayor Johnson will soon name a new Chicago Chief of Police.
Meanwhile, State’s Attorney Kim Foxx might’ve seen the tea leaves and announced she would not seek reelection after serving two terms. It appears she hasn’t learned the lesson either that voters want criminals to be held accountable for their crimes. “It is in the interest of public safety that we exercise criminal justice reform… I leave now with my head held high and my heart full,” Foxx told media.
The resignations of city prosecutors Murphy and Poje could be a harbinger. If the city’s top officials continue to show they prefer a soft-on-crime approach over the safety and security of law-abiding residents, there could be many more public and scathing letters of resignation ahead.
Larry Keane is Senior Vice President of Government and Public Affairs and General Counsel for the National Shooting Sports Foundation, the firearms industry trade association.