On May 18, 2021, the Arcadia City Council adopted a resolution declaring a vote of no-confidence in Los Angeles District Attorney George Gascón. Arcadia joins numerous other cities in Los Angeles County to issue votes of no-confidence in Gascón and new policy changes.
In a statement, city officials argue new directives to not prosecute misdemeanor crimes “[ignore] the rule of law and victim’s rights, among several others.”
The resolution adopted by the Arcadia City Council argues that Gascón’s reforms are eliminating key components of the criminal justice system, undermining law enforcement’s ability to effectively police communities, and undermine the rule of law in Los Angeles County. The resolution goes on to argue that Gascón’s reforms contradict state laws.
Following a vote of no-confidence from the City of Azusa, Max Szabo, a spokesperson for Gascón, told FOX 11 that the directive is intended to “fix the revolving door that is our current criminal justice system. You have to remember that before Mr. Gascón took office, during a tough on crime administration, violent crime went up 25% in spite of the fact that LA county sent more people to prison per capita than 56 of 58 California counties.”
Szabo also addressed concerns when the Covina City Council took a similar vote.
“We would be foolish to think that the criminal justice system and applying criminal convictions to low-level behavior — which precludes people from employment and housing opportunities and is also a primary driver of recidivism — is not exacerbating our homeless epidemic,” he told the Covina City Council during their meeting.
“If safety is truly a priority, review the available research, which actually shows that these directives enhance safety. Review surveys of victims of crime that show that the majority of victims of crime — by huge margins — prefer policies that secure rehabilitation and alternatives as opposed to simply more punishment,” Szabo argued.
The Arcadia City Council, however, demands that Gascón “uphold state law and refrain from issuing further Special Directives” that they say “contradict laws enacted by the legislature or vote of the people. If he fails to do so, the Arcadia City Council calls on DA Gascón to resign or be removed from office.”
Council Member April Verlato, who requested that this item be brought forward, stated at the meeting that, “Gascón is not a legislator, he is the enforcer [of laws].”
Gascón, however, was elected on campaign promises to reform the justice system in LA County which, historically, has mistreated communities of color, mentally ill individuals, and poor residents.
According to the Los Angeles Times, “Gascón is trying to dismantle the approach his predecessors took to crime, in which they sought to punish defendants heavily on behalf of victims. In its place, he wants something more complicated — a criminal justice system that balances prison time with rehabilitation, consequences with mercy.”
Local cities aren’t the only ones opposing Gascón’s reforms. Prosecutors within his own office, district attorneys in Orange and San Diego County and Sheriff Alex Villanueva have all spoken out against Gascón’s policies.
“I believe that as a D.A., we are the people’s lawyer,” Gascón told the LA Times. “We certainly represent the community and not a single victim. So, when we are prosecuting cases, or we are applying our discretion, we should do so through the lens of what is best for our entire community.”