LAPD chief stands with embattled D.A. George Gascón as others attack, try to recall him
Los Angeles Police Chief Michel Moore and L.A. County Dist. Atty. George Gascón stood side-by-side at a joint news conference this week to discuss a crime initiative first made public months ago.
The men spoke of Gascón’s plan to dispatch prosecutors and investigators from the D.A.'s office into city neighborhoods hit hard by L.A.'s surge in violent crime, where they will work alongside LAPD officers, violence intervention workers and others in an effort to prevent shootings and other violent crimes before they happen.
“The approach that we took in the past has not necessarily stopped violence, and that’s largely due to the fact that when police and prosecutors are called, it’s generally too late,” Gascón said. “Public safety strategies have traditionally been reactive and reactionary, instead of proactive and preventive.”
Moore was an enthusiastic supporter, saying Gascón’s approach had the potential to reduce violence moving forward.
“Working as a team, I know that we can restore the sense of safety and the security that we all strive for here in this great city,” Moore said. “So I stand here today and applaud the district attorney’s efforts.”
In past years, an event like this one in which the county’s top prosecutor and the city’s top cop rehashed the importance of cooperation and coordination probably would not have garnered much attention.
But amid rising tensions and outright fractures within L.A.'s typically cohesive law enforcement establishment that stem primarily from sweeping reforms Gascón is implementing in the criminal justice system, the event took on newfound significance.
Here was Moore siding with, or at least standing beside, Gascón — a figure who has drawn derision from within Moore’s own LAPD ranks, L.A. County Sheriff Alex Villanueva, and some of Gascón’s own prosecutors. Detractors launched a recall effort against Gascón, saying his progressive policies, which include a near complete ban on the use of sentencing enhancements for violent offenders, are making the county less safe at a time when homicides and some other violent crimes are rising.
Critics have accused Gascón of being anti-police because of his decision to reopen reviews of shootings by officers that were previously deemed justified, as well as soft on criminals for his conviction that seeking the longest possible prison sentence does not increase public safety.
Moore, who, unlike Villanueva, is not elected and was appointed by Mayor Eric Garcetti, has made it a point to avoid publicly challenging Gascón and has said he generally supports his efforts to reimagine public safety — even if he doesn’t support every policy decision.
At its weekly meeting on Tuesday, Moore told members of the civilian Police Commission he intended to stand with Gascón at the news conference the following day. The move, he said, was made in part to send a message to criminals that the “rumors on the street that there is a lack of consequences” for criminal behavior aren’t correct.
At the news conference, neither Moore nor Gascón acknowledged that the D.A.'s plan to deploy prosecutors into the field has come under fire from critics, who argue it will drain resources from the D.A.'s Hardcore Gang Investigations Unit, which has been credited in the past with securing prison sentences for some of the city’s most notorious gangsters.
Neither man specified how many police and D.A. personnel will be committed to the new effort. Gascón said the number of people from his office would fluctuate — including when he seeks to expand the program countywide.
Asked whether such an expansion would be possible given that Villanueva, an ardent opponent of Gascón’s agenda, handles policing for much of the sprawling county, Gascón predicted the sheriff would eventually come on board with his ideas.
The show of solidarity between Gascón and Moore comes at a critical moment for policing locally and nationally as communities grapple with increasing violence and the proper role of prosecutors in confronting it.
In L.A., shootings and homicides have surged since the COVID-19 pandemic set in, with killings this year up 35% over 2019 and more than 25% above last year. Shootings are up 50% over last year.
At the same time, a crisis continues to roil Venice and other neighborhoods, where homeless people have established encampments that are testing many residents’ patience and compassion.
In recent weeks, the issue became more fraught when Villanueva deployed a homeless outreach team to Venice, which is traditionally policed by Moore’s LAPD, and declared he would clear the beachfront encampments, through arrests if necessary.
During their joint appearance, Moore and Gascón steered clear of any talk about the sheriff and the friction over his ploy in Venice.
Instead, they, along with community leaders who spoke, projected a united front on the initiative, saying it would bring about needed change, especially in how youths are treated by the criminal justice system.
Gascón praised Moore as a partner, and vice versa, and other speakers repeatedly noted the solidarity between the men.
“Thank you, George Gascón, and our good friend also, Mike Moore, for supporting this,” said Bobby Arias, co-founder of Champions in Service, a community organization doing street intervention and re-entry work. “We don’t always agree. Sometimes we agree to disagree. But it’s rarely personal and it’s rarely mean-spirited. We do things that are in the best interest of our Angelenos.”
Everyone nodded along.
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