Two high-profile resignations over the weekend, and two open resignation letters, offer a rarified glimpse into Chicago’s crisis of violent crime.
“State law change means man accused of starting shootout that killed bystander won’t face murder charges,” accused the headline at the Chicago Sun Times on February 8, 2022.
“The SAFE-T Act says murder charges can only be filed if someone directly causes a death,” added the Chicago Sun Times. “A grand jury cited the act in declining to indict Travis Andrews for the murder of Melinda Crump, who was killed after someone shot back after Andrews allegedly fired in that person’s direction.”
It was this headline and storyline which landed veteran Cook County prosecutor and assistant state’s attorney James Murphy in hot water with Cook County State Attorney Kim Foxx.
“A few months ago, I was summoned into a meeting with the State’s Attorney so she could criticize some bond hearings I did,” James Murphy wrote yesterday in a scathing open resignation letter condemning Foxx and her administration for the rapidly rising violent crime current reaching epidemic proportions in Chicago. “One involved a massive shootout and the other involved a woman who was walking to the store when she was gunned down in a crossfire. The bond hearings involved gun possession charges only.”
“The State’s Attorney voiced her concern with the headline and the heat she was getting from her backers and never voiced any concern over the fact that this woman was shot and killed simply walking to the store,” Murphy recalled of the incident. “And nobody was going to face a murder charge.”
“That is what is wrong with the Administration,” concluded Mr. Murphy. “I’ve seen it day after day. How many mass shootings do there have to be before something is done? This Administration is more concerned with political narratives and agendas than with victims and prosecuting violent crime.”
“7/29/22 was my last day as an Assistant State’s Attorney,” Murphy wrote in his letter. “I was fortunate enough to participate in my final murder jury trial as an ASA, alongside two amazing trial partners. We were able to get some semblance of justice and closure for the family of a single mother who was gunned down in a cell phone store in front of her two kids.”
“It is beyond difficult to say goodbye to an Office that I truly love, to all of my colleagues and friends and the ASAs I’ve worked with over the years and to those I’ve supervised,” Mr. Murphy lamented. “I wish I could stay. I would love to continue to fight for the victims of crime and to continue to stand with each of you, especially in the face of the overwhelming crime that is crippling our communities.”
“However, I can no longer work for this Administration,” Murphy asserted. “I have zero confidence in their leadership.”
While Murphy was full of praise for his team and their willingness to pursue justice for the victims of violent crime, “in spite of the many obstacles that have been placed in front of us,” he was open in his rebuke of Foxx’s office.
“Staffing levels are at an all time low and have been for some time,” Murphy continued. “All of the Units and Bureaus have been operating at dangerously low levels. Two person courtrooms and one person courtrooms are the norm. This has been going on for some time and is getting worse by the day. This is not a recent phenomenon.”
“This Administration can claim that this attrition is due to the Covid Era,” Mr. Murphy wrote. “We all know that is not true.”
“This Administration routinely claims that they have shifted their focus from prosecuting low level crimes so that they can focus their resources on fighting violent crime and drivers of violence,” Murphy went on. “This is simply not true.”
“If this Administration was truly concerned with effectively fighting violent crime, then they would fully staff those courtrooms and Units,” he added. “Not create more useless policy positions on the Executive Staff at the expense of hiring more ASAs who can work in the trenches. Meanwhile, the rest of us are overworked, overstressed, and under-resourced.”
“The Office has been hemorrhaging talent,” he said. “From seasoned, well-respected veteran prosecutors to many of the younger up-and-coming ASAs. People are leaving in droves. It is clear as to why. It is not because of Covid.”
The departure of James Murphy isn’t the only high-profile resignation the city of Chicago has suffered over the past few days. This weekend, Chicago Police Department dispatcher Keith Thornton Jr. announced his resignation as well.
“It is with a very bittersweet heart that I formally notify you of my resignation from the City of Chicago as a Police Communications Operator II at the Office of Emergency Management Communications (OEMC) Center,” Mr. Thornton wrote.
“I will miss this particular job because I love serving my city and I’ve loved working alongside some of the hardest working colleagues one could ever imagine,” Thornton said. “But, I’ve promised myself that I’d never continue working for an establishment if their priority was not 100% for the people in which it serves. That’s the case here.”
“Having citizens beg for police to respond to their emergencies after calling numerous times over and over again with NO RESPONSE is a big problem,” Thornton observed. “An even bigger problem is management requiring its employees to tell citizens a bunch of fluff as opposed to the truth: help won’t be there for a while and it might not be coming at all.”
“There are literally more than a dozen districts or more within this city who have backlogs that are pages and pages long,” he went on. “Now that the public is catching on to all of this by listening to scanners to see what’s truly taking place within their neighborhoods, the city is all of a sudden encrypting CPD Zone’s (one by one) so that citizens aren’t kept up to speed of the truth.”
Murphy and Thornton may have a point about crime unchecked in Chicago. The mass exodus out of Chicago began long before the recent shoot-out which brought Chicago’s downtown entertainment district to a grinding halt and sent theater patrons fleeing for their lives. It began before the high-profile summer murder of a teenager at Millennium Park, in the shadow of Chicago’s iconic Giant Bean sculpture.
Boeing, once the crowning jewel of Chicago and a major employer in the area is going, going, gone. Caterpillar has followed suit. Chicago’s status as a professional mecca for high-finance and banking has taken a tarnishing as well; Citadel recently announced it too will be leaving Chicago.
The reason- these companies and others, plus residents and families who have also fled Chicago, make no bones about it- is simple: Crime.
Crime has gotten so bad in Chicago, the Chicago Bears are in the process of leaving their 50-year home in Downtown Chicago’s Soldier Field. In a desperate bid to keep the team, which is probably coming much too late, Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot recently proposed a $2 billion dollar renovation to Solider Field in an effort to keep the team.
Citadel had to leave; as did Boeing and Caterpillar. The reasons are simple, bottom-line; it’s the same reason countries like Venezuela have had a catastrophic, irreversible brain drain.
Anyone with education, marketable skills, means and the wherewithal to use them wants out of Venezuela; no one with any of the above wants to move in. Chicago is staring down the same long corridor. Citadel had to move its corporate headquarters because it was having too much trouble attracting top talent to work at Citadel.
The executives Citadel most wants to attract can choose to live and work anywhere: No one wants to move to Chicago.
With these two high-profile resignations, coming as they do with a very public airing of grievances, will city leaders act to stop Chicago’s slide into decline?
Or will their efforts come too late to save Chicago?
(contributing writer, Brooke Bell)