George Gascon, Los Angeles County’s new head prosecutor, unveiled an agenda Monday that will usher in changes to the local criminal justice system by his refusal to prosecute certain crimes on top of other sweeping changes.
Gascon, a former San Francisco District Attorney and former Los Angeles police officer, announced in a series of policy directives that many misdemeanor cases will be dismissed, saying that nearly half of those incarcerated on pre-trial misdemeanor offenses suffer from mental illness.
“Los Angeles County courts should not be revolving doors for those in need of treatment and services,” one directive said.
As of Tuesday, many misdemeanor cases will be declined or dismissed prior to arraignment unless “factors for considerations” exist. The list of offenses includes trespassing, disturbing the peace, a minor in possession of alcohol, driving without a license, driving with a suspended license, making criminal threats, drug and paraphernalia possession, being under the influence of a controlled substance, public intoxication, loitering to commit prostitution and resisting arrest.
In addition, prosecutors will not seek the death penalty and those accused of misdemeanors and low-level felonies will be referred to community-based programs.
For juveniles, those accused of misdemeanors will no longer be prosecuted.
“Our prosecutorial approach should be biased towards keeping youth out of the juvenile justice system and when they must become involved, our system must employ the “lightest touch” necessary in order to provide public safety,” Gascon said in another order.
Gascon’s office will also decline to seek bail for anyone charged with a misdemeanor or non-violent crime and will end the use of sentencing enhancements. The district attorney’s office declined a Fox News interview request.
The Los Angeles Police Protective League, the union that represents rank-and-file officers, criticized the new policies Monday.
“As homicides, shooting victims and shots fired into occupied homes soar in Los Angeles, it’s disturbing that Gascon’s first act in office is to explore every avenue possible to release from jail those responsible for this bloodshed,” the union’s board of directors said in a statement Monday. “These victims and law-abiding residents lost a voice today while criminals and gang members gained an ally in the prosecutor’s office.”
Union President Craig Lally did not immediately respond to a Fox News request for comment. In his inauguration speech, Gascon blasted tough criminal policies that have led to mass incarceration.
“For decades tough-on-crime advocates, the private prison industry, the bail industry and law enforcement unions — all organizations that profit off taking away your liberties — they sold us a false narrative that more police, stiffer penalties and more people locked up in prison made us safer,” he said, according to a copy of the speech.
The LAPD is facing a proposed $150 million budget cut, which the city approved in July and which will lead to the lowest staffing level in 12 years at the department.