L.A. County District Attorney George Gascón promised to make sweeping changes to the DA’s office. Now — in his first week, the newly sworn-in DA has embarked on a plan to reimagine criminal prosecutions in L.A. County and has unveiled some of those new policy changes.
L.A. County DA George Gascón joined us with more.
Some of the vows Gascón made were ending cash bail, banning prosecutors from seeking the death penalty, and to stop trying juveniles as adults.
“My thinking has continued to evolve, and it is certainly different than what it was 40 years ago. In my transition, I grew within the police department and getting to the conclusion that what we were doing was simply recycling people in and out of the system. And that had a tremendous impact on people of color. It was a continuous process of educating myself and looking at how other parts of the world do business. I’m constantly learning; this is an exciting moment in history, it’s an exciting moment for L.A., and I’m honored to have been given the opportunity to do this work,” said Gascón.
This year, Southern California has seen more than 300 homicides. That is the first time we’ve seen those numbers in over a decade.
“In the last seven years, violent crime in L.A. County grew by 30%. Now clearly, 2020 is very different. I think COVID has an impact on the mental health of a lot of people, the way the institutions are working, and then, of course, in the U.S., we had the George Floyd murder case. And we have other cases that shocked the consciousness of a lot of people and brought a whole other level of reactions, and quite frankly questioning the entire criminal justice system. I think what you’re seeing is an overlapping of things that are happening all at the same time that we’re not equipped to deal with in a clear manner,” added Gascón.
One thing Gascón says he is going to do is review possibly thousands of cases—including some police shootings.
“One of the things I am trying to convey is for police departments to use less force. That would be safer for everybody—not only for the community but for the officers. The reality is that if we start working together to reduce the levels of force we’re using, the work will be a lot safer for everybody around. So, I’m hoping that some of the work we’re doing generates that reaction, and then look at those cases where there is a violation of the law, and make sure that we hold ourselves accountable just like we would anyone else,” said Gascón.
Some of Gascón’s plans have drawn concerns from the ranks of 1,200 deputy district attorneys, saying that some of the changes are too much and that there are not many resources to get them all done.
“They are correct, we certainly don’t have the resources and office to do this, and that is why I’m bringing a lot of outside help. The community also has to step up here. We got to where we are through about 40 years of hyper incarceration and just focusing on one way of doing business. I will never expect all the women and men in this office to do all this work. It’s going to require a lot of community input and assistance, added Gascón.
Gascón says he is looking forward to working with the Biden administration.
“I’m very excited with the new administration, and I look forward to having a different level of work with the Justice Department. The last four years have been a disaster with the Justice Department. And, I am looking forward to a different Justice Department where we can partner together to bring reform and bring a better level of work to all of our communities,” said Gascón.