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As Gascon Faces Recall, He Says 'People Don't Care About Data'

Photo Courtesy: George Gascon District Attorney's office

George Gascón was elected district attorney of Los Angeles County in 2020 with 54 percent of the vote. “I won handsomely,” he reminisced. “I got over 2 million votes.” It was a big victory for criminal justice reformers: a leading progressive prosecutor over the movement’s top target, the largest U.S. county and one that has long been hostile to change, Politico reports.

“I knew how challenging LA County was because I had been a police officer here for 27 years,” he said. “This [prosecutor's] office had been one of the leading incarcerators, death penalty, put young kids into adult prison. This office actually led the way.”

In the fall of 2020, after the murder of George Floyd prompted a new racial justice movement, being a well-known advocate for criminal justice reform was an asset in L.A. County. Black Lives Matter signs appeared in Beverly Hills, and Gascón leaned into his message of radical reform. “This is really about beginning to sort of dismantle systemic racism from the criminal justice system,” he said then.

Gascón moved quickly after he was sworn in. On his first day, he ended cash bail for misdemeanors and non-violent felonies. He told his deputies not to seek the death penalty anymore, never to try juveniles as adults, to stop prosecuting people for first-time non-violent misdemeanors, and to stop using so-called sentencing enhancements, which allow prosecutors to pile on jail time.

Then came the backlash.

When certain types of crime spiked in Los Angeles, Gascón was blamed. The Beverly Hills city council passed a vote-of-no-confidence resolution against him.

“It became fashionable for affluent white people to want to be pro-police accountability,” he recalled. “It was kind of the chic thing to do. So you also are going to want to be seen with BLM. They wanted to be in demonstrations, right? … I’m a little cynical now, looking back... I thought, ‘This is a reversal.’ “I was wrong.”

Ominously for Gascón, last month, San Francisco recalled its district attorney, Gascón’s friend and ideological kin, Chesa Boudin, who had instituted many of the same policies.