LOS ANGELES — After decades in uniform as an officer, commander and deputy chief for the Los Angeles Police Department, officer-turned-San Francisco District Attorney George Gascón is pledging to hold officers accountable when they use deadly force in controversial shootings if he’s elected in November.
His campaign to unseat incumbent Jackie Lacey has critics looking closely at his own record at the LAPD.
What You Need To Know
- George Gascón is running to lead the largest prosecutor's office in the nation
- He is endorsed by former LAPD Chief Charlie Beck
- Former Chief Bernard Parks wrote a scathing op-ed in the Los Angeles Sentinel, warning Gascón is "not who he says he is"
- Jackie Lacey’s campaign turned the op-ed into a campaign video
“All of us have a record, and that record reflects what you have done when you had the power to do it,” said former LAPD Chief Bernard Parks, who wrote a scathing op-ed in the Los Angeles Sentinel about Gascon’s reputation as an LAPD Commander.
According to Parks, Gascon had a “reputation for going easy on officers involved in disciplinary cases,” citing the 1999 shooting of Gus Woods, who was holding a metal wire when he was shot and killed by an LAPD officer.
Parks said he found the shooting out of policy, but Gascón was on the disciplinary board that declined to punish the officer. Lacey’s campaign turned the op-ed into a campaign video lambasting Gascón for having a “reputation for leniency.”
In an interview with Spectrum News 1, Parks acknowledged he promoted Gascón when he was chief. Under Parks, Gascón oversaw training at the academy and throughout the department.
“We did not necessarily have a personal relationship," Parks said. "He worked for me. I knew of him, I promoted him at least once or twice."
Parks has endorsed Lacey for re-election.
In contrast, former Chief Charlie Beck has endorsed Gascón, even appearing in a campaign video saying "his commitment to public safety in Los Angeles is unparalleled.”
Gascón left the LAPD in 2006 to become Chief of Police for the Mesa Police Department in Arizona. He left to head San Francisco’s police department in 2009. In 2011, then-San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom appointed Gascon as San Francisco’s district attorney. Now, he’s returned to Los Angeles and is running to helm the largest prosecutor’s office in the country.
Gascón says his experience as an officer informs his determination to hold law enforcement officers accountable when they use unnecessary deadly force. When he was a young officer on the LAPD, a suspect on PCP refused to cooperate, and the arrest almost turned deadly, according to a story recalled by the candidate.
“There was a fight, and he tried to go for my partner’s gun,” Gascón said.
The rookie cop was able to arrest the suspect without firing a single shot. When he returned to the station, Gascón expected to be commended. But that’s not what happened.
“I was reprimanded," he said. "I was given a written-up comment card, saying I had placed myself and my partner at risk."
Gascón said officers sometimes use deadly force because they can, not necessarily because they should. If elected in November, he’s pledging to reopen several cases where police shot and killed unarmed civilian