By Nick Domenici
LOS ANGELES – In downtown Los Angeles, crowds have been gathering every Wednesday for the past two and a half years, chanting loudly, “Jackie Lacey must go! Jackie Lacey must go!”
Jackie Lacey, the current District Attorney of Los Angeles, is fighting for reelection against former San Francisco District Attorney George Gascón.
She is being challenged from the left side, with hundreds of critics claiming she has failed to hold police accountable for the excessive use of force and police-involved shootings. During the entirety of her career she has received heavy backlash for the racial disparity in county jails and the high incarceration rates, with African Americans making up a large sum of that population.
Gascón, who is running against Lacey, was appointed District Attorney of San Francisco by Gov. Gavin Newsom, after serving as the chief of the San Francisco Police Department.
He bills himself as a reformer and was co-author of Proposition 47, which reduced punishments for certain nonviolent crimes. Gascón is responsible for expunging minor marijuana convictions, experimenting with technology to limit racial biases among prosecutors, and supporting a law that requires the Department of Justice to clear conviction records once an offender completes his sentencing.
In the primary, Gascón nabbed 50 percent of the vote, while Lacey logged 48.7 percent.
The winner of the DA race will run the largest prosecutor’s office in the nation with the highest incarceration rates across our nation, holding lots of responsibility in today’s day and age.
Lacey has built her professional career from within criminal justice reform, working as a prosecutor, manager, and executive in the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s office since her early days as a deputy district attorney since 1986.
And she was sworn into office as the 42nd District Attorney in LA history on December 3, 2012—but more importantly was the first woman and first African American to take on this role. She has focused her efforts on fighting sex-trafficking for younger women, placing the mentally ill into health care systems rather than jails, and eliminating fraudsters who are exploiting immigrants.
Lacey has created the Conviction Review Unit, responsible for the evaluation of innocent claims based on newly discovered evidence in cases. In addition, she heads the Criminal Justice Mental Health Project, whose mission is to reroute the mentally ill out of the criminal justice system for nonviolent offenses.
And, of course, she leads the largest prosecutorial office in the U.S., overseeing 1,000 lawyers, 300 investigators, and 800 support staff members for L.A. County.
Despite the legacy she has left behind in office, she is in the fight for her career, with this upcoming election in November.
“If you pitched this story as a movie, no one would fund it because no one would believe it,” she said.
In the wake of George Floyd’s death, she has experienced thousands of Black Lives Matter protestors demanding her resignation. These same protestors are advocating for criminal justice reform and are claiming she hasn’t held police officers accountable for their forceful actions in cases.
But, she argues she is following the law, telling critics, “The system says that before your liberty can be taken away, before you can be charged with a crime, the prosecutor must be convinced that there’s enough evidence to convince 12 people beyond a reasonable doubt that you’re guilty.”
She emphasizes the de-escalation program she has installed in the county has led to fewer officer involved shootings.
She was heavily criticized when she failed to delay the prosecution of Ed Buck, a democratic party donor who is alleged to have been running a drug pin enterprise at his residence in West Hollywood. Two men have died of methamphetamine overdose in his house.
Lacey has not been known for being proactive with criminal justice reform and did not file charges against controversial shootings involving police officers. She has been known to many as being labeled a cautious leader, with not a lot change being implemented.
But Lacey has done her part in training more than 2,000 officers in de-escalation techniques, according to the LA Magazine. Additionally, she has mandated racial bias training in her office for attorneys and investigators in her office, along with revisiting 1,300 cases by establishing the conviction review unit, which resulted in three men being released from prison.
For the past several years, there have been demonstrations held outside her office at the Hall of Justice and even outside of her home.
Melina Abdullah, a Black Lives demonstrator, states, “We want voters in L.A. county to understand Jackie Lacey doesn’t represent the collective interests of Black people.”
There has been a national upward trend of police killing innocent unarmed Black men and women. But times have changed since she was first elected, surrounding the relationship between politics around police accountability and reform.
As a Black woman, Jackie Lacey claims she hasn’t forgotten her roots, and that racism still exists in today’s world. She said she understands that most people behind bars are people of color, and that there is systematic racism across all platforms.
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