Immense challenges ahead for Chicago area's next prosecutor

The Chicago area's expected next prosecutor, who unseated an incumbent on a wave of anger over the handling of police shootings, would take over the job facing tremendous challenges — balance competing interests from law enforcement and the public amid intense scrutiny.

First-time candidate Kim Foxx easily beat two-term Cook County State's Attorney Anita Alvarez this week in the Democratic primary, as Alvarez's re-election bid was dogged by critics who alleged waiting a year to charge a white police officer in a black teenager's shooting death was a cover-up. Activists who protested Alvarez celebrated Foxx's win, but also warned that they expect Foxx to make changes and they'll hold her accountable.

Foxx, who grew up in the notorious Cabrini Green housing project and says that gives her a necessary perspective, said Thursday that she's encouraged by the interest of the activists and other groups. But she said her approach to the office would be to look at all cases fairly — including recognizing that police officers put their lives on the line.

"I don't think you should go into this job believing that you have to appease an agenda," she told The Associated Press. "It's about justice."

Besides the heightened attention to police shootings, her victory also comes during a spike in violent crime in Chicago and the search for a new police superintendent after the ouster of the last one over the same shooting case that hurt Alvarez.

Laquan McDonald was shot 16 times in 2014, an incident captured on squad-car video. Alvarez charged the officer with murder, but not until November, more than a year after the incident and after a judge ordered city officials to release the tape publicly. The events put Alvarez on the defensive, who said the yearlong investigation was complex and meticulous.

Foxx, a onetime chief of staff to the county board president cited her professional and personal experiences for the job, which includes overseeing over 1,500 employees in a county that has a troubled history with wrongful convictions, coerced confessions and an overcrowded county jail, the largest of its kind nationwide.

As the daughter of a teenage mother who lived at Cabrini, the sound of gunfire would send her and her sibling to hide in a bathtub. She has also been vocal in advocating for sexual assault victims, something she said she experienced at a young age.

"It's not academic," she said of understanding difficult issues. "I know what that feels like."

Foxx is favored to win in November in the heavily Democratic region against Republican Christopher Pfannkuche.