Web Extra: Edited transcript of Brad Edwards’ interview with former Cook County State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez.
DOJ Report, Police Brutality
In the middle of January, the U.S. Department of Justice released a scathing report on the Chicago Police Department. It found systemic violations of civil rights, including officers regularly using excessive force against African American and Hispanic communities. The report also said Chicago police officers routinely failed to provide full reports on their use of force, and their supervisors failed to appropriately review those reports. The Independent Police Review Authority compounded the problem, by having over-worked and under-trained staff conducting “glacially slow investigations.”
Brad Edwards: “DOJ report came out, a thoroughly damning assessment of policing in Chicago. Critics will say, right or wrong, you weren’t strong enough on police brutality. You say?”
Anita Alvarez: “Well I know that I have charged over, in my administration, over 100 police officers.”
Anita Alvarez: “During the eight years that I was in charge with a variety, you know, use of force of sexual assault of theft of perjury you name it across the board. But I charged over 100 and more than any of my predecessors and, you know, we have the stats we can give them to you. So I think it’s unfair to say that you know I I wasn’t tough enough or I didn’t charge, you know, many police officers, because I did.”
On Convicting Officers
Anita Alvarez: “People need to understand that convicting police officers is extremely hard thing to do.”
Anita Alvarez: “Particularly on-duty officers, we see time and time again the not guiltys. We’ve seen it we’ve seen it here and that’s a frustrating part. The other thing is, you know, here in Illinois the defendant is the only one who has a right to a jury trial or a bench trial. They decide, not the state. So I’ve seen it over and over again is police officers charged with any crime tend to take a bench trial and I think you if you look at the stats they tend to be successful it happened it happened in Glenn Evans it happened you know on the Servin case.”
On Dante Servin
Dante Servin was a former Chicago police officer who was acquitted of criminal charges in the shooting death of 22-year-old Rekia Boyd.
Boyd and a group of people were hanging out in Douglas Park in March 2012, when Servin got angry about noise they were making. The off-duty officer got into a shouting match with a man in the group.
Prosecutors said Servin fired five shots over his shoulder from inside his car, striking Boyd in the head, and grazing another person in the group. He claimed he opened fire because he thought he saw someone coming at him with a gun. Investigators only found a cellphone at the scene.
Brad Edwards: “How did Dante Servin get off?”
Anita Alvarez: “You know Dante Servin, you know, Brad, we put a lot a lot of analysis into that particular case. We did research, we had meetings where we all discuss what would be the appropriate charge. I can tell you this – it was unanimous. All the people involved in making the decision on this case that none of us thought we could ever meet our burden on a first degree murder. That was unanimous. However, there were people advising me not to charge Dante Servin with anything. I disagreed with that. I had researched on making sure if we charge this it charges correctly. I believe I charged it correctly. I believe Judge Porter is absolutely wrong. I have legal experts that back me up on this. I think Judge – I don’t know why he did what he did, but I disagree with what he did. But there were some people that didn’t think Dante should’ve been charged with anything and I have always came back to this, to Ms. Boyd lost her life for what? For what, because this off-duty officer, you know, decided to inject himself into a group that was out there partying on a summer night, you know, in the city of Chicago? It was, in my opinion, something he could’ve avoided and should’ve avoided. And yet, he put himself in there, in that space and you know I felt very strongly that he he had to take responsibility for taking her life. Obviously it didn’t work out the way I wanted it. Again, you know, I think the judge was wrong. I think there’s case law backing me up to support why I charged what I did.”
There were more than 3,500 shootings in Chicago last year, which claimed more than 750 lives. Police recovered 8,300 illegal guns in 2016. In January 2017, there were 234 shooting incidents, 299 shooting victims and 51 murders in the city.
Brad Edwards: “In some cases this new administration has been classified as as a 180 of yours. Would you agree with that?”
Anita Alvarez: “The whole movement now across the country, not just here in Cook County, but across the country, is you know criminal justice reform.”
Anita Alvarez: “I think there are some people who just think criminal justice form reform means stop prosecuting, stop arresting, empty the jails, open the doors, let everybody out.”
Anita Alvarez: “We need to be smart, right? Let’s be smart. And so some of the new policies that I’ve heard of I disagree with because Chicago we have an epidemic of gun violence. Epidemic.”
Anita Alvarez: “We have to focus on violent crime and what I have tried to do what I’ve tried for four solid years, and it fell on deaf ears in Springfield, was I was trying to do what New York did and that was to raise the minimum on gun the minimum sentence on gun cases from one year, which it is here in Illinois, to three.”
Anita Alvarez: “I think it’s important, because what have we seen? The, you know, 760 murders last year? It’s obnoxious. And, and what’s happening to these gun offenders? Nothing.”
Anita Alvarez: “But when it comes to violent crime, I did issue a policy that, on gun cases, that that we won’t plead those down. Because again, I think it’s important because the reality here in Illinois though, with one year being the minimum, one year’s not a year. One year is three months and a lot of these guys can do that standing on their head and they know it. And then three months I can do three months and I’ll be right back out and I’ll have a gun in my hand the next day.”