A source within the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office has voiced concern over unconfirmed reports that District Attorney George Gascón plans to disband or significantly downsize the office’s Hardcore Gang Division.
The latest speculation and criticism against the top lawyer in the county stems from a press conference he held with members of the media Wednesday to review his first 100 days in office.
During the call, Gascón did not directly address questions about the future of the Hardcore Gang unit, but rather stated he was evaluating his office, and trying to modernize his staff’s approach to law enforcement through increased reliance on science, data and efficiency.
The statement, neither confirming nor denying the existence of a plan to diminish the Hardcore Gang Division, resulted in a renewed wave of criticism this week from prosecutors within the D.A.’s own office, who said Gascon’s previous elimination of gang sentencing enhancements coupled with a possible reduction in the specialized team of attorneys would be harmful to residents.
Since it was created in 1979, the unit has tried some of county’s most difficult-to-manage gang-related cases that are stereotypically meticulous and discovery-heavy.
“They handle most serious gang cases, so either gang murders, attempted murders, gang robberies,” said a staff member within the District Attorney’s Office. “So, they’re very specialized prosecutors and they have a lot of training and experience in dealing with these very (serious) gang cases.”
L.A. TV station FOX-11 first reported this week that Gascón planned to dissolve the unit, citing multiple unnamed sources in the D.A.’s Office. The reports have been picked up by a number of media outlets.
April 2 has been floated as a possible target date for dissolving or significantly downsizing the prosecutorial gang-suppression program that has employees working on cases in every L.A. County Superior courthouse, a staff member in District Attorney’s office said.
“Morale in the D.A.’s Office is really, really low, and now you’re making it even worse because so many of these deputy district attorneys, who are really honorable and valuable, specialize in really fighting for a lot of these vulnerable victims of gang violence,” said the staff member who spoke to The Signal on the condition of anonymity. “And they don’t know where they’re going to go, or what they’re going to do.”
The source said that should the reports prove true, he believes that the loss of these niche experts in gang crimes can result in a large disservice to community residents of color who live in areas with statistically higher gang violence, and bystanders caught in between the violence.
Officials from Supervisor Kathryn Barger’s office said Wednesday they had not been informed of any formal decision to eliminate the unit. A request for clarification to the district attorney’s statement from Wednesday drew a response referring back to his original statement.