The Cook County Board of Commissioners on Wednesday approved a resolution requesting State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez to appear in a hearing before the Criminal Justice Committee to discuss the investigation and handling of allegations of police misconduct.
The resolution was proposed by Commissioners John Fritchey and Jesus Garcia. Alvarez can choose to decline or accept the formal invitation to appear before the committee.
“The original version of our resolution was focused on the handling of the Laquan McDonald matter but as new issues continue to arise on an almost daily basis, it is clear that there exists a number of legitimate inquiries as to whether the residents of Cook County, and justice itself, are being properly served and represented by the State’s Attorney’s office in the overall practice and handling of alleged police misconduct matters,” Commissioner John Fritchey said in a statement. “The quickest and most open way to do so is to have the State’s Attorney answer questions in a public forum such as a hearing of the Criminal Justice Committee of the Cook County Board, a body empowered to serve and represent the interests of the residents of the county.”
Alvarez has been criticized in recent weeks for her handling of the Laquan McDonald case.
McDonald, 17, was fatally shot 16 times by a Chicago police officer in October 2014. Dashcam video of the shooting contradicts officers’ reports claiming McDonald lunged at them with a knife.
The officer involved in the shooting was charged with first-degree murder more than a year after McDonald’s killing and on the same day the dashcam video was released to the public, following a judge’s order.
She has faced backlash about the length of her investigation in the McDonald case, and has been accused alongside Mayor Rahm Emanuel and former Chicago Police Supt. Garry McCarthy of aiding a cover-up of the shooting. Since the video’s release, politicians, elected officials and activists have called for Alvarez and Mayor Rahm Emanuel to resign.
Alvarez has vehemently denied the cover-up claim, however, and said she “refused to be bullied by politicians.” She also called Fritchey “one of the most self-serving people I’ve ever met.”
"I am going to continue to be Cook County State's Attorney, and there's no way that I would ever even consider resigning," Alvarez said.
Fritchey addressed Alvarez's comments during the Wednesday meeting, saying "there is no spat between her and me."
“This resolution doesn’t ask for her resignation, doesn’t focus on the McDonald case, it simply asks for explanations as to the workings of her office as they relate to cases of alleged police misconduct,” said Fritchey. “Rather than yell, wave her arms, point fingers, cry politics and assign blame to everybody else, she should simply agree to appear in order to lead by example and break the same code of silence that she so often decries.”
Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle also voiced her support for the resolution, saying Alvarez's "cooperation with the committee is an important step in establishing accountability and transparency in the handling of police misconduct cases."
Alvarez released the following statement on Wednesday: "I have been open and accountable in discussing the process that resulted in my decision to bring the charge of First Degree Murder against Officer Jason Van Dyke for Laquan McDonald's death and I am willing to answer questions from commissioners who wish to contact me."
"But I will not participate in a sideshow orchestrated by John Fritchey and Chuy Garcia," the statement added. "These men have the right to campaign for the candidate of their choice, but they do not have the right to demand that I play a role in their political theatre. This is a murder trial and I am not going to allow it to be turned into a circus by those looking to score cheap political points over the tragic death of this young man."