By Henry Stiepleman
LOS ANGELES – George Gascón, a current candidate for Los Angeles District Attorney (DA), released two documents related to criminal justice reform this past Friday, targeting his opponent, current Los Angeles DA Jackie Lacey.
Gascón, who most recently held the position of San Francisco District Attorney, fired off two tweets on Thursday, including one that was an original request he sent back in 2019 to Lacey about joining him in supporting California Assembly Bill 392, a use-of-force bill, as well as her response.
The second tweet, sent out later that afternoon, was a press release from Gascón’s office calling on Lacey to continue the emergency bail schedule set by California’s Judicial Council, even though they recently decided to have the order lifted on June 20.
In his tweet, Gascón provided the following caption: “As SF’s DA, there were times I saw cops use force that I thought was unnecessary–albeit legally authorized. So, I worked to change the law. I asked every CA DA to join me in restricting the circumstance under which police could use force. Jackie Lacey’s response: ‘Evaluating.’”
In the attached two-page letter, Gascón provided his reasoning for supporting Assembly Bill 392.
“My experience with use of force policy spans more than three decades,” stated Gascón. This included his time as both a beat cop and as Assistant Chief of the Los Angeles Police Department, in which he “helped develop and taught use of force policy in the wake of the Rampart scandal.”
He continued, “As a Chief of police in arguably the most conservative [Mesa, Arizona] and most progressive [San Francisco] counties in the country, I’ve also been responsible for making determinations as to whether a police officer’s use of force was or was not within department policy.”
Gascón, who wrote this letter at the time when he was San Francisco’s DA, went on to say that “as a District Attorney I am now responsible for making decisions as to whether to criminally charge officers,” and all of his experience together led him to the conclusion that “our laws should only authorize police to take a life when it’s necessary, and not simply when it’s reasonable.”
In addition to his experience, Gascón wrote about the research he had seen on training for police officers that prioritizes de-escalation and non-lethal force options. “These are tactics that not only prioritize the sanctity of life, but that studies indicate-and my experience confirms-results in enhanced officer safety, too,” wrote Gascón.
Gascón then combined his two lines of argument, saying “my experience has also taught me that public safety and officer safety is compromised when lethal force is used unnecessarily. Perception is reality, and where there is a perception that police are unnecessarily using force-let alone lethal force-the community’s trust in law enforcement is eroded. It is incredibly dangerous and difficult to effectively police communities that do not trust you.”
In response, Lacey’s expressed that her “office is committed to exploring ways for peace officers to de-escalate violent encounters, prioritize non-lethal force options, and restore trust for law enforcement in our communities.”
Lacey concluded by writing that “AB 392 is a measure that seeks to address a myriad of concerns surrounding the legal lethal use of force standard thereby gaining public trust for our peace officers. My Office is currently in the process of evaluating AB 392… I will make my decision on a position after our process is complete.”
In the second tweet, Gascón provided the following caption: “Yesterday, the Judicial Council ended the emergency bail schedule. We are still in a state of emergency, and that means LA’s leaders must act today to protect our community’s health and safety.”
The attached one-page document was a press release from Gascón’s campaign directed toward Ms. Lacey.
The subject line read: “GEORGE GASCÓN CALLS ON DISTRICT ATTORNEY LACEY NOT TO SEEK BAIL IN CASES PREVIOUSLY COVERED BY THE JUDICIAL COUNCIL’S $0 BAIL ORDER.”
The document also provided a quotation from Gascón.
Gascón began, “Crime has gone down in Los Angeles since the Judicial Council set bail at $0 for some low-level and non-violent offenses, a testament to the fact that we can reduce incarceration and crime simultaneously.”
He continued, “Our jails, however, have become hotbeds for Covid-19, with more than 5,100 incarcerated individuals under quarantine. If the Los Angeles Superior Court does not extend its $0 bail order, District Attorney Lacey must not seek bail in these low-level cases.”
Gascón concluded with a direct reproach of Lacey: “The Los Angeles District Attorney must curb her longstanding practice of incarcerating low-level offenders simply because they are too poor to afford bail. Our jails are currently at 100 percent design capacity, and it is neither in the interest of our safety nor our health that we usher people into the few places cradling the disease.”
Gascón and Lacey will compete in a runoff election this November.
To sign up for our new newsletter – Everyday Injustice – https://tinyurl.com/yyultcf9