Prepared remarks by the Honorable Kwame Raoul, Illinois Attorney General

August 20, 2021
At the Annual Awards Banquet of the Illinois Association of Chiefs of Police
Tinley Park, Illinois

"Collaboration is critical today." 

Attorney General Raoul served as keynote speaker at ILACP's annual award banquet held Aug. 20 in Tinley Park. He was also named the 2021 Public Official of the Year, an award which was presented by Immediate Past President Chief James Black of the Crystal Lake PD. During the past year, AG Raoul has worked collaboratively with the Illinois Chiefs and other law enforcement leaders to strengthen Illinois’ process of decertifying police officers.


Thank you for allowing me to speak with you tonight.

Thank you for welcoming me to stand with you as we thank the Crystal Lake officers who sprang into action when a little boy, A.J. Freund, lost his life under the most cruel and senseless of circumstances. I am so grateful to be present with you as we honor the fallen. Additionally, I want to say thank you to everybody who puts on a police uniform every day, particularly those who have taken on the responsibility to lead police departments in these unprecedented times.

When I talk about unprecedented times, I don’t only mean being at the helm of a police department during a pandemic that complicates the ability of officers to carry out their duties under the risk of contagion and the need to safeguard public health. I am also talking about a time when ruthless criminals have been emboldened by easy access to sophisticated weaponry as guns are trafficked into the hands of people who use them to commit violent criminal acts or who don’t possess the maturity to make good decisions about their handling.

I’m talking about a time characterized by an increased number of carjackings and shootings along the public ways that victimize all citizens including seniors and very young children. A time when criminals are so emboldened that they even attack police in uniform. These assaults can be deadly we are all reminded, as we still mourn the recent death of Chicago Police Officer Ella French who was laid to rest yesterday.

These are not the only kinds of attacks police officers come under today. We have seen people take advantage of peaceful protests to engage in the looting of businesses, physical attacks on police officers, and the vandalism of police stations and vehicles. There are those who would misuse legitimate calls for best practices, increased professionalism, and constitutional policing in such a manner as to paint all police officers with the same broad and negative brush.

This perspective can be exacerbated by the sharing of recordings of police activity without full context and capacity to interpret appropriate use of force. While recordings have played an essential role in the painful but necessary exposure of misconduct by a small number of officers, footage from body cams, dash cams, and civilian cell phones is now routinely viewed, shared and scrutinized, even when it doesn’t depict the whole story. Viral videos can certainly lead to justice, but they can also entice people to rush to inaccurate conclusions. In the absence of information to fill in the gaps, some rush to the narrative that all cops are bad actors and enemies of the communities they serve.

This narrative fails to account for the extent to which law enforcement officers put their lives on the line daily to ensure the safety of those same communities. And it ignores the unimaginable stress officers undergo when they consider the threat to their personal safety, worry that they might not go home to their families, and navigate the varied tasks society has assigned them. That stress takes a toll, reflected in the increased number of recent officer suicides.

With all of these factors, I can’t imagine the struggles that you must endure as police chiefs to maintain the morale necessary for your departments to carry out the expectations of the public.

Broad-brush narratives also ignore the many positive developments achieved amongst fellow law enforcement agencies through collaboration.

While I have long been an advocate of reform, advancing policies during my time as a legislator and attorney general with the goal of ensuring constitutional policing, best practices, and training, I have tried never to do so in the spirit of being an adversary to law enforcement. I have rejected the false dichotomy that says if you work for reforms, you are working against police. I reject the argument that if you are working in partnership with law enforcement and calling attention to the dangers that officers face in the line of duty, you are somehow endorsing the bad acts of a few or the endemic problems of a larger system of which these officers are a part.

At the outset of my tenure as attorney general, I knew it would be very important to foster a strong relationship between my office and law enforcement partners at federal and local levels. I believe we have done so successfully with many partners, one of those certainly being the Illinois Association of Chiefs of Police.

Specifically, I want to thank the association for demonstrating that the effort to secure police professionalism and reform can be a collaborative one that does not attack the reputation of law enforcement officers or undermine the capacity of police to do their jobs. When we enhanced the certification process, we did so in a deliberate manner over the course of at least 25 meetings that were characterized by civility and mutual respect.

Unfortunately, as we were doing our work through appropriate channels, there were others who thought that the only way to achieve their ends was through attacks on police. But under the leadership of Chief Jim Black, Chief Kruger, Chief Davis and Ed Wojcicki, we proved what we can achieve by way of collaboration. It is this approach that is needed to tackle other problems within law enforcement and faced by law enforcement.

My office runs the Internet Crimes Against Children task force in 101 of 102 counties in this state. We have the opportunity to lend our training resources to equip officers, and our investigative resources to partner with local departments to catch these online child predators who engage in child pornography, many of who admit to being hands-on abusers as well. This comes at a time when we have young people spending more and more time online on interactive platforms and social media. That collaborative effort is so important.

We’ve also seen an increase in unemployment insurance fraud, and we’ve embarked on a collaboration with the FBI and your departments to catch some of the bad actors behind these scams, some of whom may be using the proceeds to fund gang activity.

As we have seen looting on the edges of otherwise-peaceful protests, so we have also seen an increase in retail theft. Not all of these incidents are isolated. That’s why collaboration is needed. We’ve become aware that there is an organized crime component to retail theft, and my office is establishing an organized retail crime task force that will work with police departments and prosecutors throughout the state to crack down on these crime rings. Wherever arenas of crime overlap, such as the relationship between human trafficking and organized crime, we need to make good use of our partnerships.

My office also prosecutes murders and other serious crimes throughout the state, stepping into the shoes of local state’s attorneys where there are conflicts of interest, or backing them up with extra personnel when requested. When we do this, we collaborate on the local level with your departments.

Those are just a few of the ways in which we rely on each other. Collaboration is critical today.

We are fortunate that both state, local and federal agencies have turned so much attention to the rising gun violence problem that plagues communities throughout our state and the gun trafficking that often gives rise to it. My office continues to develop a statewide gun tracing platform that we hope can be helpful to all of your departments. The problems you face and solve as law enforcement leaders every day are immense, and the environment in which you have to do your jobs is historically one of the most challenging.

You are underappreciated by so many, which is why I am honored to be here and to salute all of you, particularly Chief Jim Black, whom I’ve had the opportunity to get to know as an honorable man. Chief Mitch Davis, someone I’ve known since college days, as he takes the helm of this association. Both of you have the temperament and the sensitivity to community that allow you to be great leaders in a very difficult time to lead law enforcement agencies.

I want to acknowledge my former Senate colleague and former police chief, John Milner, for connecting me to the Illinois Association of Chiefs of Police to do this work. I also want to acknowledge Chief Jim Kruger, Executive Director Ed Wojcicki and Director Brendan Kelly. A special shout out to my co-awardee Representative Patrick Winhorst for his contribution.

I am better as attorney general for having been able to lean on all of your experience and knowledge as I do my work, as an advocate and a prosecutor.

It is also why it is my honor to stand with you as we remember your fallen brothers and sisters, who gave their lives in the line of duty over the past two years. Some took a bullet while carrying out their responsibilities under the law, and others were killed by careless or intoxicated motorists while keeping our roads safe. Many lost their lives to the coronavirus.

The best advice for most of us during the worst times of this pandemic has been “stay home,” but these men and women couldn’t stay home and safe from contagion; instead, they risked their health to safeguard others.

We mourn and honor them tonight. We salute their families, who live with grief every day, but who can also live with the pride of knowing that their loved ones were willing to make that sacrifice for the safety and wellbeing of others. I want to affirm that tonight.

In my career in public service, I have focused on reforms that can improve the law enforcement profession and ensure that everyone who interacts with law enforcement is on the receiving end of constitutional conduct. The way to do that is through honest conversation and committed collaboration, grounded in an acknowledgment of the pressures and dangers law enforcement officers face daily. It is through acknowledging the experiences that have led us to this reckoning, but also the challenges of law enforcement work and law enforcement leadership, and the pain suffered by families, colleagues, and communities when we lose someone who wore the uniform. That is why I am grateful to have had an opportunity to speak with you tonight and to collaborate with your departments every day.

May God Bless you and your families for the service. May God Bless the great State of Illinois. And may God Bless the United States of America!

About Illinois Association of Chiefs of Police  

Since 1941, ILACP has served as the professional development association for Chiefs of Police and other community leaders committed to public safety in Illinois. The statewide organization serves 1200 members working in more than 450 agencies, providing them with innovative services, training, and partnerships. ILACP advocates for legislation and policies that protect and improve police forces and the communities they serve.