After a closely watched campaign roiled by a national reckoning with race, George Gascón assumed the post of District Attorney in Los Angeles County on Dec. 7. The former San Francisco D.A. now oversees the largest county prosecutorial body in the country and the largest jail system in the world.
In an inaugural address both personal and data-heavy, Gascón laid out a paradigmatically different vision of law enforcement and the carceral system from that of his predecessor. Making good on the promises of his campaign, he announced a number of immediate and sweeping changes to items like cash bail and the death penalty. Though the City of Beverly Hills cast a majority of ballots for incumbent Jackie Lacey, Gascón offered an olive branch to all stakeholders in improving the system.
“I recognize that for many this is a new path,” Gascón said in his address. “But whether you were born in L.A. or came to this country and to Los Angeles as a young boy like me, and whether you are a protestor, police officer, or prosecutor, I ask that you walk with me.”
Gascón couched his ideology within his experiences as a former police officer. “I still remember to this day the first day that I put a uniform on,” he said. Gascón joined the Los Angeles Police Department in 1978, achieving the rank of Assistant Chief by 2003 and eventually serving as the San Francisco Police Department chief from 2009 to 2011. “However, I’m not the same man that I was when I first put on the uniform and one of the many reasons for that is because of situations that I’ve faced as a young police officer–situations and experiences that have stayed with me all my life.”
Gascón used the inaugural address to unveil a number of immediate and large-scale changes, what he described as “a series of policies based on data and science, not fear and emotion.” He announced an end to the use of the death penalty and committed to resentencing those currently on death row.
Lacey faced criticism for what activists described as inaction in prosecuting police misconduct. Gascón made clear that he would take a more active approach. “The murder of George Floyd this summer was a horrific reminder that too often, our profession has failed to hold its own to the same standards we impose on the communities that we are sworn to protect and to serve,” he said.
Gascón added that the D.A.’s office will end the use of sentencing enhancements, a practice that allows (or requires) prosecutors to add additional time to a sentence. Under the new policies, his office will undertake the “unprecedented effort to re-evaluate and resentence thousands of cases,” he said. Those serving sentences with enhancements and those who have served more than 20 years in state prison are eligible for consideration.