In his first comments as a private citizen, ousted U.S. Attorney Zachary Fardon lamented what he called an “atmosphere of chaos” prompted by skyrocketing violence in Chicago’s neighborhoods.
“I am not a political person,” Fardon said in an open letter issued after he tendered his resignation Monday. “I belong to no political party—never have. I am not a Democrat. I am not a Republican. I am not a liberal. I am not a conservative. I have no interest in political office.”
Saying that in his three and a half years as U.S. Attorney “I put my head down and I went to work and I studied,” Fardon said he watched as a variety of factors led to the city’s staggering increase in murders: the release of the LaQuan McDonald video; the resignation of Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy; a Justice Department investigation of Chicago Police; and an ACLU agreement, which forced officers to fill out lengthy forms following every street stop.
“By January of 2016, the city was on fire,” Fardon said. “We had no police superintendent. Cops were under scrutiny. Cops had to worry about the ACLU deal. And many of them just no longer wanted to wear the risk of stopping suspects. Many became scared and demoralized.”
“So cops stopped making stops,” he said. “And kids started shooting more—because they could, and because the rule of law, law enforcement, had been delegitimized. And that created an atmosphere of chaos.”
Fardon noted his own visits to the city’s worst-hit neighborhoods had shown him first-hand how neglect had led to the empowerment of street gangs. He called for the City of Chicago and Justice Department to reach a consent decree on how to move forward on police reforms. And said federal agencies should unify in their efforts to combat violence.
The former U.S. Attorney said he understood those who might be attracted to bringing in the National Guard as a short-term fix, but warned that would send a terrible message.
“What would a National Guard presence say to folks in those neighborhoods?” he asked. “This is war, and you are the enemy. The Chicago of bike paths and glistening lakefront, and economic opportunity, that’s not your Chicago, it’s ours and we will protect it.”
Law enforcement should attack the manner in which violent criminals now use social media to taunt their opponents and plan their attacks, he said, approaching gun violence the way doctors attack viruses.
“I recognize that First Amendment issues come into play,” Fardon said. “But let’s test those limits. Lives are at stake.”
Fardon stepped down as U.S. Attorney Monday, after Attorney General Jeff Sessions demanded the resignations of all 46 remaining U.S. Attorneys nominated by former President Barack Obama.
“I want to say to my colleagues at the U.S. Attorney’s Office: You are everything that is right and good about public service,” Fardon said. “You are our hope. Carry on.”