‘Fight for public safety’: Committee wants City Council to issue vote of no confidence against Gascón

Courtesy of the Los Angeles County District Attorney

The City Council’s Public Safety Committee has called on the City Council to consider taking a vote of no confidence for Los Angeles County District Attorney George Gascón, citing serious concerns with his recent special directives. 

Committee members Mayor Bill Miranda and Councilman Jason Gibbs heard Wednesday from Santa Clarita Valley Sheriff’s Station Capt. Justin Diez and City Manager Ken Striplin, who briefed them on the district attorney’s policies.

“I have absolutely no confidence in somebody that, within less than five hours of putting his hands up and swearing an oath to the Constitution, will issue nine directives that greatly affect public safety in this community,” said Gibbs.    

Miranda agreed to bring the recommendation forward before the other City Council members, saying Santa Clarita must be “on the leading edge of this fight for public safety.”  

They also discussed recommending the council look into what it would cost to have its own city attorney’s office that can prosecute. Based on other cities with city attorney’s offices, such as Los Angeles, it would not likely be feasible for Santa Clarita as it could cost in the “tens of millions of dollars a year” and any move the city would push forward must pass through Gascón, according to Striplin.  

After defeating former District Attorney Jackie Lacey in November’s general election, Gascón immediately rolled out a series of special directives, which include ending pursuit of the death penalty, eliminating cash bail for many offenses and sentencing enhancements, as well as shifting away from charging minors as adults in all county prosecutions. 

Gascón has said he wants to bring criminal justice reform to the county, noting that previous  tough-on-crime approaches “undermine rehabilitation, exacerbate racial and other inequities in our justice system, and they decimate families and communities. They also are crowding jails and prisons and exacerbating the COVID pandemic behind bars.”

While there are some exceptions, the administration’s policies are of concern for the safety of the community, according to Diez and Striplin. 

“The reason we put people in prison is to remove them from society for specific reasons. He’s not wanting to do that,” said Striplin, regarding Gascón’s special directive dealing with sentencing enhancements. “That’s another level of this discussion and these policies and the impact that it’s going to have long-term on public safety in general.”     

Meanwhile, the state Supreme Court ruled Thursday in the O.G. v. the Superior Court of Ventura County that 14- and 15-year-olds in California can’t be prosecuted as adults, a decision Gascón applauded. 

“Children should not be treated as adults because they possess unique tendencies, such as impulsiveness, susceptibility to peer influence and inability to foresee the long-term consequences of their actions,” he said in a prepared statement. “We know from science that young people have the capacity for growth and development that increases their likelihood of rehabilitation. Research shows that rehabilitation works and by rehabilitating our children, we will make it less likely that they will commit new crimes, thereby preventing victimization in the future and promoting healing in our communities.”

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