By Ramneet Singh
LOS ANGELES – Although there has been some backlash to newly elected Los Angeles County District Attorney George Gascón’s progressive platform, multiple southern California criminal justice reform organizations Monday voiced united support for his new reform agenda.
Gascón received 53.5 percent of the votes to incumbent Jackie Lacey’s 46.5 percent, a mandate for change he campaigned on leading up to the Nov. 3 general election. Previously, he had served as the District Attorney of San Francisco from 2011 to 2019. He assumed the L.A. DA position on Dec. 7.
As a backdrop for this election, the Associated Press noted how “the bitter race to run the nation’s largest prosecutor’s office” became even more critical after increased activism sparked by George Floyd’s death at the hands of Minneapolis law enforcement.
Despite a relatively competitive race, the Los Angeles Times described how Gascón held his advantage as he had “long championed alternatives to incarceration for nonviolent and mentally ill defendants.” The same article mentioned that “(Lacey’s) opponents repeatedly grilled her record on police shootings.”
To his record, the Associated Press recognized his involvement in prior California criminal justice reform. Gascón promised to conduct investigations into police shootings to determine accountability.
Furthermore, he promised not to “try juveniles as adults.” According to a 2019 San Francisco Chronicle report, “96 percent of the 1,551 juveniles prosecuted as adults from 2007 to 2016 were Black or Latino.”
Continuing, they emphasized Gascón’s strong margin of victory as a positive reflection of active civic participation and how the general population can alter positions of power directly.
They highlighted the potential to alter the “tough on crime approach” of past law enforcement officials, which bolstered the criminal population without addressing “any of the underlying issues that most significantly impact public safety.”
Accordingly, the misuse of power had detrimental effects on marginalized communities, they said, noting criminalization of poverty, the rise of the prison population, the reinforcement of “systemic racial disparities,” and a lack of accountability for law enforcement officers.
As a result of past abuses, there was a focus on the national movement for progressive reform concerning public health issues, constraints on law enforcement, and the “end of mass incarceration.” This shows that the election of Gascón is not an isolated incident, but rather a strong and genuine effort to improve communities across the United States, claim pundits.
In Gascón’s first day in office, he fulfilled core campaign promises, including the elimination of sentence enhancements, hindering the prosecution of youth as adults, limiting cash bail, allowing opportunities for resentencing, and reopening cases of police killings. Gascón proved his willingness to resolve key issues highlighted by the unified organizations and coalitions.
The support statement defines the growing national consciousness tied to highly publicized police misconduct, arguing “…we can no longer police and cage away the many social ills produced by inequality, racism, and poverty: the root causes of crime.”
The statement described the “brazen hostility” of judges and law enforcement officials challenging these reforms, and their connections to the “tough on crime” approach.
Throughout his campaign, the Los Angeles Times reported that Gascón “was met with fierce opposition from law enforcement unions, which cited his lack of trial experience and surging property crime rates in San Francisco under his tenure…”
Overall, the statement expresses a desire for “a less punitive and more productive approach to public safety” under Gascón’s leadership.
In the closing remarks, they utilize a collective language, stating that the election and the reforms are “the will of the people.” And from a highly publicized election, there is hope for broader change.
The various organizations that cosigned this statement include Court Watch Los Angeles, ACLU of Southern California, Black Lives Matter – Los Angeles, and LA County Public Defender’s Union. The full statement and list are provided on Twitter.
Ramneet Singh is a third-year student at the University of California, Davis. He is a Political Science major and is pursuing a History minor. He is from Livingston California.
To sign up for our new newsletter – Everyday Injustice – https://tinyurl.com/yyultcf9
Support our work – to become a sustaining at $5 – $10- $25 per month hit the link: