Former Los Angeles Police Chief Charlie Beck on Friday rescinded his support of Los Angeles County District Attorney George Gascón, joining a chorus of law enforcement officials and victims’ advocates who have expressed concern over what they deem Gascón’s soft-on-crime policies.
“I based my support for the election of District Attorney George Gascón on the hope he would advance public safety in Los Angeles and because of our close personal relationship of over 30 years. After observing the negative effects of his policies and practices on public safety, I am compelled to rescind that endorsement,” Beck’s statement said.
“I have spent the majority of my life protecting and serving the people of Los Angeles and the men and women of its police department. I believe they would be made safer and be better served by a district attorney that emphasizes the rights of victims and the safety of our police officers,” Beck continued.
Gascón defeated two-term incumbent Jackie Lacey in 2020 on a platform of criminal justice reform, but now faces a possible recall election this year for policies that some say have gone too far in that direction at the expense of public safety.
The policy changes include no longer seeking death sentences, abandoning sentencing enhancements that could lead to lifetime imprisonment for all but the most egregious crimes, and more lenient treatment of juvenile lawbreakers.
Gascón — whose office did not immediately reply to a request for comment on Beck’s statement — has argued that he made his views clear during the 2020 campaign, and voters agreed with him.
He has defended the directives on eliminating most sentencing enhancements, citing data on recidivism to back up his case, and pointing out that some crime victims support his changes.
“The pain and trauma of losing a loved one is immeasurable and I recognize and respect that some victims want me to impose the maximum punishment in their case,” Gascón said last year. “Research shows that excessive sentencing practices have exacerbated recidivism leading to more victims of crime. Our system of justice can’t continue to rely on policies that create more victims tomorrow simply because some victims want the maximum punishment imposed in their case today.
“I also can’t ignore research showing these views are not shared by a majority of survivors of violent crime,” he added.
A similar recall effort against Gascón in 2021 failed to gather enough signatures to qualify. But a continuing rise in crime over the last year — including a wave of “smash-and-grab” robberies in the Los Angeles area — has exacerbated concerns over whether the new direction taken by the DA’s Office might be encouraging criminal behavior.
Among the current or former public officials who have backed Gascón’s recall are Sheriff Alex Villanueva, former District Attorney Steve Cooley, former County Supervisor Mike Antonovich and former Los Angeles City Councilman Dennis Zine.
The Association for Los Angeles Deputy Sheriffs, representing 8,000 L.A. County deputies, has also supported the effort.
The Association of Deputy District Attorneys — the collective bargaining agent that represents more than 800 deputy district attorneys in Gascón’s office — plans to vote internally by secret ballot later this month on the recall question.
But ADDA Vice President Eric Siddall pointed to Beck’s statement Friday as further proof that the DA has gone too far.
“Today’s announcement by former LAPD Chief Beck is another proof point that Gascón failed to deliver on his promise that his radical policies would make our communities safer,” Siddall said.
Beck retired as chief of the Los Angeles Police Department in 2018.
The city councils of numerous Los Angeles County cities have also passed votes of no confidence against Gascón, including Beverly Hills, Redondo Beach, Manhattan Beach, Diamond Bar, Santa Clarita and Lancaster.
The recall effort must collect 566,857 signatures from registered Los Angeles County voters (10% of the total current registered voters). The deadline for submission to the county registrar is July 6. If enough valid signatures are submitted, the recall would likely appear on the November ballot.