Home>Articles>Reasonable Centralization or Rank Cynicism – LA DA Gascon’s Special Crimes Shake-up

Los Angeles District Attorney George Gascon. (Photo: da.lacounty.gov)

Reasonable Centralization or Rank Cynicism – LA DA Gascon’s Special Crimes Shake-up

‘Gascón does not intend to throw any new resources or deputies at these cases’

By Thomas Buckley, April 30, 2023 10:44 am

In February, Los Angeles District Attorney George Gascon re-organized the office’s Victim Impact Program (VIP), the internal group of prosecutors dedicated to handling some of the most heinous and delicate crimes – elder abuse, sexual assault, domestic violence, and child abuse (both physical and sexual.)

The idea, said Gascon, was to centralize the handling of these crimes – they had been handled at the branch offices – in order to allow “more specialized prosecutors (to handle cases) in each category” said Gascon spokesman Greg Risling.

“The re-organization called for the special units to handle serious felony cases for the above categories (family violence, sex crimes, elder abuse, and hate crimes) countywide,” Risling said.  “This is the same central organization previously used for gang cases prosecuted by the Community Violence Reduction Division, cases involving police victims prosecuted by the Crimes Against Peace Officers Division, cases involving law enforcement defendants prosecuted by the Justice System Integrity Division, most of the serious fraud cases and several other serious categories.”

The Family Violence and Sex Crimes Divisions now handles the crimes once covered by the branch office-based VIP attorneys.

Sounds reasonable, right?

But Gascon’s critics point to a host of different, far more troublesome, reasons he broke up the VIP system, from hiding the fact that fewer attorneys will now deal with such cases to it being purely an act of political pandering.

For example, he announced the changes the day after a highly critical internal memo written by one of the lawyers in charge of VIP system appeared in the media.  The memo – submitted to and apparently ignored by Gascon for ten months before his rushed “re-organization” announcement –   blasted Gascon’s leadership, saying that he had not addressed the potentially deadly problems caused by the significant loss of branch VIP attorneys (down about 25% since 2017) and the vastly increased caseload (nearly doubling across the board, including a staggering 140% increase in the Pomona branch, in the same time frame.)

The overall loss of staff also required the VIP attorneys – who were supposed to focus solely on their areas of expertise – to have to cover other duties, such as court appearance and court filings on different matters for other attorneys.

This lack of staffing and a proper management system has been a consistent problem under Gascon.

“No one wants to work for him,” said Eric Siddall of the Los Angeles Association of Deputy District Attorneys.  Couple that with Gascon assigning “deputies to work on pet projects that have nothing to do with the core mission of the office” exacerbating the shortage and “you have a recipe for disaster.”

Siddall agreed that centralizing certain types of offenses can make sense, but that Gascon’s re-organization does not even remotely come close to carrying out that promise.

“It’s a stagecraft, almost Orwellian actually,” Siddall said.  “The number of deputies handling these crimes will actually decrease under the plan – it’s a shell game.”

Both Siddall and Val Cole – the author of the memo referenced above (and see below for a PDF) – said the re-shuffle is dangerous for victims.

“This is when people get killed,” said Siddall.  “Domestic violence cases require an enormous amount of care and the problem can escalate very quickly.  When you’re dealing with a gang member on a shooting case, you know it’s, sadly, ‘just business’ for him; domestic violence, on the other hand, is very personal, adding to the cycle of violence.”

In the memo, Cole stated the problem “creates unacceptable risks to public safety if the level of coordination and follow-up required…are not continually adhered to.”

The political overtones are also quite clear – by creating a putatively new program, Gascon can claim progress on the campaign trail.

LAADDA is having none of that:

“(H)ere’s what we have learned about Gascón’s intentions from other sources, including our members. In addition to dissolving VIP, Gascón does not intend to throw any new resources or deputies at these cases. He intends to move deputies out of these units while cutting managerial support by at least 50%,” wrote board member Ryan Erlich.  “He intends to consolidate control over these units downtown, where his political cronies can better punish dissent, prevent leaks, head off bad press, and bolster Gascón’s “brand” as he begins his reelection campaign. He also intends to hand some of these incredibly difficult and sensitive cases off to line prosecutors who aren’t trained to handle them. “

So, you decide – reasonable reorganization of rank cynicism?

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2 thoughts on “Reasonable Centralization or Rank Cynicism – LA DA Gascon’s Special Crimes Shake-up

  1. This creep Gascon. He is a holy terror and everyone knows it, especially the hundreds of victims of violent and other crime. But for pretty obvious dirty tricks with the L.A. County Registrar in failing to qualify Recall Gascon for the ballot last year, DA George Gascon would be LONG GONE. And now with each passing day we see more and more of the blood-curdling results of his reign.

    1. ShowandTell, you are so right! The County Clerk intentionally torpedoed the recall. So disgusting and outrageous!
      Gascon is DANGEROUS for Los Angeles County and everyone knows it. The question now is whether enough people are fed up with him to vote him out at the next election. We saw Newsom recalled, survive it and then he won a huge victory in his reelection! Republicans, DAs and others against Gascon need to publicise the impacts of his awful policies far and wide without letting up so that the votes against him are too large to counter with tricks.

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