Vanguard Interview with Los Angeles DA George Gascón

By David M. Greenwald
Executive Editor

The Vanguard got an exclusive interview on Saturday after DA George Gascón announced his reelection in front of an audience of workers at SEIU Local 2015.

Vanguard: Alright, so George, I haven’t talked to you in about a year, so how have things been going in the last year?

George Gascón: It’s been exciting. It’s always, there’s a lot of craziness, but we continue to do the work. This year actually has been incredibly productive. We began to do our environmental justice work, so we started with a big case against a metal recycler that had been poisoning the water and the environment around high school and housing development in South LA. We started our waste theft unit and we now prosecuting some very big cases. We’re seeing violent crime coming down. We’re sort of now approaching the pre-pandemic period. At the same time that we have held police accountable. We continue to do work around criminal justice reform. We’re doing a lot of work around diversion, dealing with mental health issues. Frankly, we’re trying to also gear up for our campaign this coming year and make sure that our coalition stays strong. Feel very fortunate that the people that brought me into place in 2020 are all standing with us and we are actually seeing new people coming into our coalition. So those are very exciting times.

Vanguard: You mentioned that crime is going down, but you wouldn’t know it if you read the newspaper or watch the news. How do you get that across to the public?

George Gascón: Yeah, I would say one of the biggest challenges that we have is how can we get factual information in a way that people understand it, in a way that people see it. There’s so much misinformation concerning crime, and as you indicated, we’re actually, crime nationally, but certainly LA County per capita is coming down faster than many other jurisdictions that continue to adhere to the old way of doing business. So the problem for us, and I say us because I’m really part of a team, is how do we get the message out? How do we get this information out on social media? How do we get traditional media to more aggressively provide a balanced approach to the work? There’s often, especially within the Republican party, you see people talking about crime in jurisdictions that are being run by progressive Democrats. So you saw Governor DeSantis was here about a week ago and he was talking during a TV interview about organized retail theft in LA and that I was not prosecuting those cases.

It was clearly a lie, but interestingly enough, what he did not say is that actually organized retail theft is creating havoc in Florida. So you see those things going on where you see Republicans trying to put crime onto my work or reform work and often they don’t tell you the realities that actually per capita crime is much higher in those jurisdictions. We know that violence, especially gun violence, is substantially higher in the state of Florida than San City, California or Texas. But yeah, if you listen to the news, you would think it would be the other way around. So educating the public, getting this information out there is critically important not only for the work that I’m doing, but for the work that we’re trying to do across the country.

Vanguard: What would you say is your biggest accomplishment of your first term so far?

George Gascón: Yeah. For me, I think that coming out of two years of this hard lockdown, a pandemic that was unprecedented for generations and being able to actually implement all these criminal justice reform initiatives that we did, and then seeing crime now going down and showing that actually the policies and the work that we’re doing actually is congruent. It actually helps safety, that doesn’t create more insecurity.  For me that I think has been the largest accomplishment and it’s not my accomplishment, it’s our accomplishment. This has taken a lot of people to be here, took a lot of people to put me in office, takes a lot of people for me to do the work every day, and I think that this is a wonderful testament to the fact that reform actually can work and it’s actually good for our community.

Vanguard: And what is your biggest goal for a second term?

George Gascón: Yeah. My biggest goal would be not only to continue to do the work, but actually continue to build the culture of the LA District Attorney, which is the largest prosecuting office in the country, to become a 21st century prosecuting office. An office that understands that accountability and rehabilitation are not antagonistic to one another. An office that understands that public safety and humanity are actually congruent, that they work together, an office that understands that we have a responsibility to make sure that our work does no harm, that we are, we use a moral compass that understands that whether you’re poor or rich, whether you’re black or brown or white, that the system is going to be for there equally, with the same vigor and the same humanity.

Vanguard: DA, can you talk about your record on police accountability?

George Gascón: Of course. Look, first of all, let me begin by saying that there are people out there that like to say that I’m anti-police, and that’s furthest from the truth. I was a police officer for 30 years. I cared deeply for policing. But I understand that it’s so important for policing to be done, right. Actually, the safety of our police, brothers and sisters depends on communities trusting the police and communities across the board, supporting the police. And part of that requires that our work be credible and that when we do something wrong and I say we, because it also includes prosecutors. When we, in positions of authority, whether you’re talking about police officer, prosecutors violate the law, we need to be held accountable. So the work that we have been doing in police accountability has been unprecedented for this county. When you look, we have now prosecuted over a hundred police officers for on-duty misconduct over 15 now for excessive force.

When you compare that to the prior 20 years, for two administrations there were two police officers in 20 years that were prosecuted for excessive force. Here we are, two and a half years, almost three years into place, over 15, and over a hundred prosecutions. And what that does actually is creates space for police to do good work and creates the capacity for the community to understand that the few, and I say the few, because the very few police officers that actually violate the law, that they’re going to be held accountable, that that actually increases the safety and the credibility of policing in our community.

Vanguard: And along those lines, there seems to be the perception that anytime you want to attack police accountability and police misconduct, that you’re anti-police, but in fact, cleaning this up actually will help police

George Gascón: 100%. Look, there’s a lot of data out there that shows that when police officers are well led, and when police officers work with community and they respect the community they work in, actually the work becomes safer for the police officer and they’re much more effective. And there’s actually scientific data behind this, which makes sense. I mean, if you look at it from a commonsense point of view, when you treat people with humanity, when you treat people with respect, they will turn around and treat you most of the time with respect and humanity.

About The Author

David Greenwald is the founder, editor, and executive director of the Davis Vanguard. He founded the Vanguard in 2006. David Greenwald moved to Davis in 1996 to attend Graduate School at UC Davis in Political Science. He lives in South Davis with his wife Cecilia Escamilla Greenwald and three children.

Related posts

Leave a Reply

X Close

Newsletter Sign-Up

X Close

Monthly Subscriber Sign-Up

Enter the maximum amount you want to pay each month
Sign up for