Many majority Democrat cities have fallen victim to progressive prosecutors. Rather than drive down crime, improve public safety, and promote common sense tough-on-crime policies, these zealots campaign on platforms of structural racism, outcome equity, and restorative justice. In these cities, such performances have in fact become a requirement for the office of district attorney (DA). Aspiring DAs must protest the disproportionate prosecution of minorities without examining the underlying causes; they must clamor for the elimination of cash bail in the name of racial fairness; and they must recommend sentence reduction or alternatives to incarceration to mitigate “past injustices.”
Committed to “reimagining” the criminal justice system in the service of “woke” rhetoric, these DAs are neither acting in the public interest to enforce the law nor honoring their oath of office. They forget that their principal duty is to uphold the law, not crusade for changes driven by their political agenda. In the process, they are emboldening offenders, fostering disrespect for the law, unleashing dangerous criminals on society, and – worst of all – robbing victims of due justice. San Francisco DA Chesa Boudin, who wears his ideological lineage on his sleeve and currently faces a recall campaign, arrogantly claims that a DA can “challenge the legitimacy of a law by declining to bring charges in certain cases.”
Progressive policies have time and again been proven to be misguided, even inimical to public safety.
A study by the Law Enforcement Legal Defense Fund (LELDF) found that in six jurisdictions with “social justice” prosecutors, reduced conviction rates and fewer guilty outcomes for serious felonies accompanied rising crime rates. It questioned the supplanting of the standard requirement of “competency and experience” for DAs with “ideological zeal.” In his foreword to the study, former U.S. Attorney General Edwin Meese III wrote that elected leaders, law enforcement, and the media should realize that “leftist ideas of social justice and true criminal justice are not compatible.”
The radicalization of DA offices and the clamor for defunding the police comes as crime rates are skyrocketing and Americans are worried. A recent Yahoo News/YouGov poll found that 49% of respondents said that violent crime was their top concern, ahead of the pandemic, the economy, political correctness, and race relations.
Homicide rates rose 30% in 2020 in 20 major cities, with an additional 28% from January to March of 2021. Not surprisingly, Minneapolis, the epicenter of the defund-the-police movement, has a shortage of officers and a homicide rate that rose 108% between 2019 and 2020.
Los Angeles County, the largest county in the U.S., where murders have increased nearly 200% so far this year compared to the same months in 2020, demands special attention. So does its progressive DA, George Gascon, who publicly endorses Black Lives Matter (BLM) and indirectly supports the defund-the-police movement.
The county’s sheriff, Alex Villanueva, believes that Gascon’s policies have emboldened criminals and endangered citizens. Like Boudin, Gascon too faces a recall movement that’s gathering huge momentum, a measure of public objection to his uber-liberal policies on crime.
Gascon – who was born in Havana, Cuba, in 1954, and was brought to the U.S. by his immigrant parents in the 1960s – joined the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) after military service in 1978. From patrol officer, he moved up the ranks to assistant chief, completing a Juris Doctor degree in 1996.
In 2009, San Francisco’s then-mayor Gavin Newsom appointed him police chief. Two years later, Newsom named Gascon DA, replacing Kamala Harris when she became attorney general for California.
As San Francisco DA, Gascon expunged misdemeanor and felony convictions for more than 9,000 drug offenders. When he left San Francisco to run as a Democrat candidate for LA district attorney, former prosecutor Nancy Tung wrote: “…it’s no wonder San Francisco has gone by the wayside, crooks commute into San Francisco to commit crimes, and why many were celebrating his departure.”
Gascon’s campaign against incumbent DA Jackie Lacey was supported by wealthy donors who support criminal justice reform. Billionaire funder of all causes radical, George Soros, donated $2.5 million. He was also backed by Senator Bernie Sanders, Senator Kamala Harris, Governor Gavin Newsom, and BLM co-founder Patrisse Cullors, a self-admitted “trained Marxist organizer” whose supporters mobilized for his campaign.
On winning, Gascon’s first major meeting was with BLM organizers when he pledged to reevaluate 20,000 potential cases of convictions with enhancements under California’s three-strike law. The 1994 law doubles punishment for serious crimes on a second conviction; the third conviction brings a life sentence with a minimum imprisonment of 25 years. He also announced that he would end the death penalty and commute the sentences of death-row inmates to life in prison; that he would end the practice of trying juveniles committing serious or violent felonies as adults; that he would reevaluate the sentences of those who have served more than 20 years; and that he would reopen dozens of fatal officer-involved shooting cases. He proposed the elimination of cash bail, a potentially explosive situation that could release dangerous criminals into the general population with no assurance that they would appear in court, a proposal opposed by 56% of California voters. The shocked Los Angeles Police Protective League stated: “Victims and law-abiding residents lost a voice today while criminals and gang members gained an ally in the prosecutor’s office.”
In December 2020, after being sworn in, Gascon wrote an open letter to the members of the Los Angeles County law enforcement community, accusing the LAPD of “unconstitutional policing” and practices that “severely hindered the standing and safety of us all.” He announced his belief in the revolution-seeking, anarchist, terrorism-supporting BLM, an organization that doesn’t just want to “defund the police” but abolish the entire justice system. While describing the “summer of unrest” as degrading “our standing in the communities where we both work and live,” he ignored the rioting, arson, assaults, and murders of civilians and police officers unleashed by BLM, Antifa, and other left-wing groups.
Other policies Gascon pursues include the cessation of prosecution for first-time offenders who have committed nonviolent offenses, reduction of prosecution of “low level” crimes, and limitations on the arrest of criminal illegal aliens to avoid deportation. He has also ordered the dismissal of a dozen misdemeanors on the books, including criminal threats, being under the influence of a controlled substance, trespassing, disturbing the peace, and resisting arrest – all “without conditions.” He charged prosecutors with the responsibility of searching out instances of “racial injustice” in order to vacate convictions rather than perform their traditional role of ensuring public safety by prosecuting criminals. He even issued a directive to assist the families of felons with funeral and mental health services at taxpayer expense.
Under Gascon’s orders, all sentences of those who have served more than 15 years must be reevaluated. He has forbidden deputy DAs from supporting victims by attending parole hearings, even for serial and child rapists, writing anything but “neutral” parole letters, and ordered his prosecutors to support parole in most cases.
Public horror at Gascon’s radical policies that put criminals’ rights above that of victims, the marked uptick in crime in Los Angeles county, and lack of justice for victims of violent crimes and their families catalyzed the Recall Gascon movement this May. The movement has found support from the county sheriff, local district attorneys and mayors, crime victims and their families, and more than a dozen city councils. For a recall election, just under 600,000 signatures (10% of the county’s registered voters) must be collected by October 27. Hopefully, Gascon will go – and Los Angeles will serve as a model for other jurisdictions plagued by rogue prosecutors who want to “reimagine policing” and undermine community safety.
Image: Shaun Calhoun
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