By Eric W. Siddall
George Gascón recently stated that District Attorney Jackie Lacey’s comments regarding a case of officer misconduct were “as troubling as they are illuminating, as they highlight both her unfamiliarity with the law and a likely reason she’s failed to hold bad cops accountable.” However, what the public should find troubling is Gascón’s opportunism. Not only did Gascon’s prior record inspire Colin Kaepernick’s protest, but his office sought the assistance of Ms. Lacey’s office to understand the law regarding prosecuting bad cops. And with good reason, unlike Gascón, Ms. Lacey has successfully held bad cops accountable.
Over the past week, we have seen protestors, politicians, and law enforcement take the knee – a gesture popularized by Colin Kaepernick. What few know is that Mr. Kaepernick’s actions were inspired by a case Gascón refused to prosecute.
In 2015, San Francisco police officers shot Mario Woods 26 times and killed him, yet Gascón refused to prosecute any of the officers. As a result, San Francisco protestors dogged Gascón for years. Tensions became so heated between Gascón and the protestors that he sought a protective order against them. Gascón was in the unusual position of being universally condemned by San Franciscans for failing to enforce both crimes committed by police officers and quality of life crimes that rose rapidly under his watch.
Despite his claims, Gascón has showed little leadership on the issue of holding police officers accountable. Apparently, it is Gascón who is unfamiliar with the law. When faced with an actual prosecution for excessive use of force, he looked to Los Angeles for instruction. In an e-mail obtained through a Public Records Act request, Gascón’s office contacted District Attorney Jackie Lacey’s Office for assistance on how to prosecute police officers. Specifically, they requested briefs, voir dire questions, and jury instructions. They wanted the expertise from Los Angeles, because, as they stated in their e-mail “We note your office successfully prosecuted… a 149 charge that was affirmed.”
It is striking that San Francisco District Attorney’s Office did not even have jury instructions for prosecuting an assault by a police officer. This either means that Gascon’s office never took an assault by a police officer to trial or that they had little faith in their ability to do so.
The truth is Gascón has no history of being a leader on this issue. He has attempted to exploit a historic moment to reinvent and rebrand himself. His record and past tell a different story.
About the author: Eric W. Siddall is Vice President of the Association of Los Angeles Deputy District Attorneys, the collective bargaining agent representing nearly 1,000 Deputy District Attorneys who work for the County of Los Angeles.