PALMDALE — The City Council joined more than two dozen other cities in registering a vote of no confidence in Los Angeles County District Attorney George Gascón on Tuesday.
The approval of the resolution stating the Council had no confidence in Gascón was a 4-1 vote, with Councilmember Juan Carrillo casting the lone dissenting vote.
The Council a month ago discussed the impact of Gascón’s policies on the City and asked staff to bring back a vote of no confidence resolution for the Council to consider.
Gascón was elected in November and immediately set in motion sweeping criminal justice reforms, including a halt to seeking harsher sentences through special enhancements and the elimination of cash bail for any misdemeanor.
Additionally, he directed deputy district attorneys to reject filing 13 types of charges, with some exceptions, including items such as trespassing, driving without a valid or a suspended license, disturbing the peace, resisting arrest, criminal threats, public intoxication, minor in possession of alcohol, loitering, drug possession and under the influence of control substances, according to City Attorney Christopher Beck.
Gascón faces a recall effort and public pushback from many of the deputy district attorneys.
The Palmdale resolution cites Gascón’s policies regarding rejecting filings for certain types of cases, the elimination of cash bail and ending sentencing enhancements for certain crimes as reasons for the vote of no confidence.
“I think it’s a dereliction of duty by the district attorney not to prosecute these crimes,” Councilmember Richard Loa said.
The resolution states his directives in some cases violate state law and “undermine the deterrent effects of various criminal laws and penalties that were meant to protect the public, including the residents of the City of Palmdale.”
Carrillo said he believes the problems are the result of unintended consequences of policies meant to bring greater equality to the justice system, policies on which Gascón ran and was elected.
He said he doubts the district attorney set out to intentionally hurt people with the policies, rather than help.
“Let’s not forget he campaigned on justice reform. That’s not to say I agree, again, with the results,” Carrillo said.
He cited a study that showed not prosecuting low-level crimes resulted in fewer repeat offenders.
“Those of us who have walked in the shoes of discrimination, know how difficult it is, how much harder we have to work,” he said.
Carrillo said the resolution is a political statement, and that by opposing it, he knew it could be used against him in a reelection campaign in 2022.
Loa argued that by not filing charges, Gascón is preventing those who committed crimes from getting help they may need from within the justice system.
“If they’re not filed against, then those services are not available,” he said.
“This issue is about whether or not public safety is being addressed or not being addressed,” Mayor Steve Hofbauer said.
He said business owners in the city are frustrated that they have no recourse for crimes against them, as criminals know they won’t be charged.
“This guy’s our chief law enforcement officer and he’s not enforcing the law,” Hofbauer said.
Hofbauer and Councilmember Austin Bishop stated they believe reforms are needed, but that Gascón’s policies are not the way to do so.
“Does the system need reform? Absolutely,” Hofbauer said. “But you don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater.”
Several residents spoke on the matter prior to the Council discussion, with the sentiment evenly split between those who supported the no confidence resolution and those who opposed it.
Those supporting the resolution included people who were relatives of crime victims who saw the perpetrators of those crimes receive lighter sentences than felt were warranted.
Others argued that the District Attorney was duly elected and the vote of no confidence is seen as means to nullify the election.