Los Angeles, CA –Los Angeles County District Attorney George Gascon is potentially planning to do away with his office’s Hardcore Gang unit by as early as next month.
Sources familiar with Gascon’s plan said the unit will be severely downsized if it isn’t eliminated altogether, KTTV reported.
The unit, which was established in 1979 and is among the longest-standing specialized units in the district attorney’s office, is responsible for handling Los Angeles County’s most complex, habitual, and heinous gang-related offenses.
“What we’re hearing is that the Hardcore Gang Unit will be dissolved,” a prosecutor who works in the unit told KTTV on the condition of anonymity.
A second prosecutor from the same unit said the “dissolution” is expected to take place on April 1 or 2, according to the news outlet.
Gascon has already barred the prosecutors in his office from pursuing gun and gang enhancements, even as crime rates soar throughout the county, KTTV reported.
“We can already hear in jail calls and interviews with officers on the street telling us that the gang members are laughing at them,” one of the Hardcore Gang unit prosecutors said. “I mean, it’s undermined the credibility of law enforcement in its entirety.”
Prosecutors from the unit said dissolving the Hardcore Gang unit would be a major blow to marginalized communities, KTTV reported.
“The misnomer with my cases, because I do all gang violence cases, gang murder particularly, is that all of my victims are rival gang members, and that’s not true,” one of the prosecutors explained. “They miss their targets and they get their enemies wrong fully because of the way they look, whether that’s a Hispanic male with a shaved head or a Black male standing on the corner at the wrong place at the wrong time.”
One of the prosecutors said Los Angeles is considered to be “the birthplace of gangs in some ways,” KTTV reported.
“I think what Angelinos don’t understand…is that three out of four murders in Los Angeles are gang related,” the prosecutor added. “To not have a dedicated unit to protect the citizens of Los Angeles from these murders and from these absolutely horrific crimes – it’s shocking. I actually thought it was a joke until I realized, ‘Wow. They’re really gonna do it.'”
Gascon refused to confirm or deny the fate of the Hardcore Gang unit, saying only that it is a “personnel” issue and that his office is “evaluating functions,” KCBS reported.
“Since I took office, we have been evaluating…all the functions in this office, and I want to make sure that we move into a 21st century that will become a 21st century approach to our work,” he said, according to KCBS. “In the interim, we’re evaluating functions and we will continue to do so and look where the areas that we want to provide more resources and areas that we’re going to deemphasize.”
Gascon has made sweeping changes to the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office since he took office in January, to include eliminating the “three strikes” rule and cash bond and refusing to pursue the death penalty under any circumstance.
Black Lives Matter activist Gregory Akili told KTTV Gascon “is simply doing what the people have been asking for.”
Akili claimed the Hardcore Gang unit is “ineffective,” “abusive,” and “used to criminalize people,” KTTV reported.
“That’s why he was elected,” the Black Live Matter activist said of Gascon. “Now he’s simply saying, ‘let’s just swing it back to where it should be.’”
Gascon, a 66-year-old native of Cuba, was a Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) assistant chief and police chief in Mesa, Arizona before he was elected district attorney of San Francisco and then ran for office in Los Angeles.
His anti-law enforcement stance has been met with resistance in his own office, where many prosecutors have accused him of behaving like a politician instead of as a prosecutor, the Daily Mail reported.