(This is the second in a series of articles regarding Los Angeles County District Attorney George Gascon’s appearance at a local Democrat Club meeting, where he made several inflammatory claims. Part 1 can be found here.)
During the 2020 campaign for Los Angeles County District Attorney, George Gascon hammered incumbent Jackie Lacey on the issue of officer-involved shootings and alleged excessive force incidents, saying that she wasn’t holding officers accountable. He and his campaign team reviewed “dozens” of officer-involved shootings and told the community there were at least four cases in which Lacey declined to press charges against the officer that he would reopen if he won the election. He also promised to have a special committee review all officer-involved shootings that had occurred since 2012.
Gascon announced the formation a “Use of Force Review Board” the day he took office, claiming that it would be made up of policing experts, civil rights lawyers, and community members, and that it would be reviewing all “fatal use of force” cases since 2012. During an appearance before the Culver City Democrat Club Wednesday night, though, Gascon expanded the parameters of that discussion quite a bit.
A member of the club asked the District Attorney if this review board would only be reviewing shootings, or would it include “other police-involved deaths like those from police restraints,” and cited a recent local case in which a man died three days after being restrained by police. Gascon replied (emphasis added):
It’s police-involved death. Now, this review at this point is a look back because there are about 600 death cases that go back to 2012. So that’s what they’re looking [at].
And, you know, the way they’re doing their work is, the law school, the clinic is doing the first screening, law students, to see whether there’s evidence of potential criminal acts. And then if they do then they pass that onto the citizen-slash-civil rights lawyers, which is a – they have the group of both victims of police violence and – families and some civil rights lawyers, and take a second look. They only have access to public information, but we will give them all the public information.
Hold up. So first we’re going to have law students review public information to see if they believe there’s evidence of potential criminal acts. Are their professors activists like Gascon’s friend Jody Armour, a professor at USC School of Law? Will the students be penalized if they don’t think there’s evidence but the professor does? This type of review is anything but impartial.
Next, a group of victims of police violence and civil rights lawyers take a second look? What happened to the policing experts? Will anyone be involved who has been the officer in a use of force situation?
Gascon then explained the rest of the process, but the horrifying part comes next. It’s not just fatal use of force cases Gascon wants to reopen (remember, these have already been investigated by a Democrat District Attorney, Jackie Lacey), and it’s not just use of force cases in general Gascon wants to reopen; Gascon also wants investigate “allegations of potential police criminal behavior.”
And if they sort of develop the belief that this thing needs to be really investigated, then it will be bumped up to our special prosecutor if it’s an old case. The more newer cases are coming into our regular unit that we’re going to start enlarging the size of that unit.
So it’s police-involved death. Frankly, eventually I’d like to get to the place that it’s not even just death. I mean, there are other uses of force and other, you know, allegations of potential police criminal behavior that should be attended. But right now, just because of the amount of work, we’re concentrated on death.
And I think many of you may remember that when I was running for office, just looking at public information, we – myself and several others, we looked at a little over 50 officer-involved shootings, and we identified four that we are going to reopen.
If Gascon is using the same date parameters with these investigations that he’s using with fatal use of force cases, LA County law enforcement officers – even those who might have already retired – could be subjected to criminal charges for something that happened a year ago. Obviously there are (or should be) statute of limitations issues, but the way Gascon rewrites the law, who really knows? The prosecution of these cases would place a huge financial burden on LA County both for the prosecution and the defense, and would lead to a mass exodus of “good cops” from the area.
The silver lining is that Gascon for some reason feels free to really be himself these days, showing Los Angeles County exactly who he is.