The significance of George Gascón’s election to head the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office cannot be overstated.
The office is not just the largest in the state, but the largest of its kind in the country.
It is not all that surprising, then, that the race between Gascón and incumbent Jackie Lacey became an expensive proxy fight between the more conservative law enforcement status quo and the progressive criminal justice reform movement.
Millions of dollars were donated and spent on behalf of the two candidates, with police unions and the state prison guards’ union pouring money in to support Lacey and progressive philanthropists such as George Soros spending heavily in support of Gascón.
Previously the district attorney for San Francisco and assistant chief of police in the Los Angeles Police Department, Gascón has vowed to be a criminal justice reformer. Saying he thinks incarceration should be used when it is just and necessary to protect the public, Gascón emphasized the need to find alternative means of handling those suffering from mental health issues and homelessness.
Citing diversion programs in San Francisco and programs such as the Law Enforcement Association Diversion program as models, Gascón must now be expected to deliver on his campaign promises.
In speaking with our editorial board last month, Gascón noted, among other things, that whereas violent crime rates declined in San Francisco while he was DA, violent crime has remained stubbornly high during Lacey’s time as DA in Los Angeles. Time will tell whether Gascón’s plans to make data-driven decisions and focus on repeat and violent offenders will improve outcomes in Los Angeles County.
We are hopeful that George Gascón will be able to build on the laudable work by Jackie Lacey especially with respect to people in poor mental health who get involved with the criminal justice system.
Ultimately, it is critical that Gascón focuses on delivering justice. Political pressures should not factor in such decision-making. With this opportunity, it is up to Gascón to show what criminal justice reform looks like in practice. We wish him luck.