Top public defender’s COVID-19 suggestion? Stop arresting so many criminals.

Amy Campanelli | Cook County Public Defender

The top public defender in Cook County has an idea that she thinks will help fight the COVID-19 outbreak: Stop arresting people.

Chicago police should “refrain from arresting anyone for low-level, victimless, or economic-related offenses,” Amy Campanelli said in a letter to her staff. She said she shared her idea with CPD.

“The fewer people arrested, the less chance there is of them being placed in close quarters with others where the virus can spread,” Campanelli continued. “We have a public health crisis that requires the cooperation of officers on the street.”

She didn’t define “low-level,” “victimless,” or “economic-related” crimes, but she also didn’t say how police should handle drug dealers, shoplifters, identity thieves, and other criminals who might fall under her proposed no-arrest umbrella.

Campanelli also wrote that she “was informed that CPD was planning to arrest persons who resist being quarantined. I asked CPD instead to route those persons to the nearest hospital and not add them to our court system or jail.”

She didn’t explain how police were to “route” resistant individuals without first arresting them.

Campanelli also encouraged her staff to take care of themselves and their families. And to track any time off they take due to COVID-19.

“Because the State and County have declared a state of emergency, we are qualified to receive reimbursement from the federal government,” she said. “Reimbursement may be in the form of money spent, but also may be in the form of time off taken.”

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