By Shellsea Lomeli
LOS ANGELES, CA – LA District Attorney candidate George Gascón criticized the current DA’s approach to excessive force cases among officers in the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD), especially in regard to an excessive force case in Boyle Heights. He stated, “Angelenos need an independent advocate who knows the law and is unafraid to hold the powerful accountable.”
George Gascón is a democrat and one of three current candidates who initially ran for the position of Los Angeles District Attorney. Gascón will face current LA District Attorney, Jackie Lacey, in a November runoff. Previously, he has held the position of San Francisco’s District Attorney, “earning a national reputation as visionary in criminal justice reform.” He is also a former Assistant Chief of the Los Angeles Police Department. Now, Gascón is running for District Attorney of Los Angeles to “modernize LA’s criminal justice system.” Among the candidate’s several main issues is holding law enforcement accountable for their actions, especially pertaining to the use of force.
Following a recent viral video of a Los Angeles police officer, Frank Hernandez, assaulting a man in Boyle Heights, current LA DA Jackie Lacey issued a statement to the Los Angeles Times regarding why she hasn’t filed charges against the officer in question for using excessive force.
“Many excessive force cases ‘boil down’ to what was going on in the mind of the officer involved as the events were unfolding,” commented the district attorney.
According to Officer Hernandez’s attorney, the law enforcement officer “believed he was under attack from the suspect.”
Lacey stated that the DA’s office is “not reluctant to try officers for use of force, but we’ve learned by experience as prosecutors that we have to wait and look at all the evidence to see what we have.”
In response, George Gascón issued a statement on May 12, 2020, calling Lacy’s comments as “troubling as they are illuminating.
“They highlight both her unfamiliarity with the law and a likely reason she’s failed to hold bad cops accountable,” stated Gascón.
He continued, describing Lacey’s standard for police use of force as “a likely product of the millions of dollars police unions have spent to ensure bad copes have their advocate in office, rather than an independent advocate for the people.”
The statement was most likely referring to unions like the Los Angeles Police Protective League which has contributed $1 million toward defeating George Gascón in the upcoming election. According to The Appeal, the union “represents over 9,000 officers.”
In addition to the recent police beating, Gascón’s statement also referred to another case where the Los Angeles District Attorney dealt with justice incidents with police using force. In 2015, Lacy’s office declined to file charges against a LA police officer who shot and killed an unarmed man who was homeless. Although the LAPD Chief recommended prosecution of the officer, the DA’s office justified their response to not file charges based on insufficient evidence.
Gascón claimed that this incident was “clearly criminal, and that vacuum of accountability emboldens police to use force because they can, not because they should.”
In relevance to the recent matter in Boyle Heights, Gascón challenged Officer Hernandez’s claim that his actions were in self-defense. He stated that, according to the video, “the victim of the assault is standing still and does not move in a manner that is objectively threatening.
“For charges to be brought in this case, the Los Angeles District Attorney’s Office has the burden of providing beyond a reasonable doubt that Officer Hernandez’s claim that he perceived the need to use force was objectively unreasonable,” stated Gascón.
“The video and the fact that the female officer does not react in the same manner as did Officer Hernandez” are both seen as evidence, by Gascón, that the officer’s use of force was objectively unreasonable.
Gascón’s criticism of the LA District Attorney’s response to the Boyle Heights incident aligns greatly with his strong campaign stance on law enforcement accountability.
As former Assistant Chief of the LAPD, he “oversaw LAPD’s use of force review process, taught the use of force policy to supervisors, (and) made decisions related to suspensions and terminations.”
“We have a national crisis of overmilitarized, unaccountable police forces,” stated the district attorney candidate in a campaign statement earlier this year.
“Los Angeles doesn’t need a multi-million dollar pawn of the police union justifying bad policing and bad cops. Angelenos need an independent advocate who knows the law and is unafraid to hold the powerful accountable.”
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