LOS ANGELES – Today, George Gascón released the following statement following District Attorney Jackie Lacey’s statement to the Los Angeles Times that, “many excessive force cases ‘boil down’ to what was going on in the mind of the officer involved as the events were unfolding.”
In response, former District Attorney and Assistant Chief of the Los Angeles Police Department, George Gascón, released the following statement:
“The Los Angeles DA’s comments are as troubling as they are illuminating, as they highlight both her unfamiliarity with the law and a likely reason she’s failed to hold bad cops accountable. Her focus on the mindset of the officer fails to weigh whether or not the officer’s actions were objectively reasonable. This exclusive reliance on the officer’s perceptions is incomplete and grants far broader authorization to use force than legally permissible. Jackie Lacey’s standard for when police may use force is a likely product of the millions of dollars police unions have spent to ensure bad cops have their advocate in office, rather than an independent advocate for the people. She has gone to extraordinary lengths to justify use of force incidents that were clearly criminal, and that vacuum of accountability emboldens police to use force because they can and not because they should.
I oversaw LAPDs use of force review process, taught use of force policy to supervisors, made decisions related to suspensions and terminations as Chief of Police for two big-city police departments, and prosecuted more than 30 officers as San Francisco District Attorney. To charge an officer, or any person, a prosecutor must be satisfied that the evidence shows beyond a reasonable doubt that the officer had no legal justification for the act. When an act is legally justified, a person is not criminally liable even though the act would otherwise constitute a crime. Here, according to Officer Hernandez’s attorney, force was used because the Officer “believed he was under attack from the suspect,” the implication being that he was acting in self-defense or in defense of others. According to California law, self-defense or defense of others serves as a complete defense to Assault Under Color of Authority so long as the officer (1) subjectively believed in the need to resort to force in order to avert a threat of imminent and great bodily injury, AND (2) their perceptions and actions were objectively reasonable under the circumstances.
The subjective prong of the self-defense standard examines the person’s belief in the need to use force. Here, the subjective prong may be met for the officer as his attorney articulated that his client, “believed he was under attack from the suspect.” Therefore, the question turns on whether this belief in the danger presented, and the need to use force, was objectively reasonable. For charges to be brought in this case, the Los Angeles District Attorney’s Office has the burden of proving beyond a reasonable doubt that Officer Hernandez’s claim that he perceived the need to use force was objectively unreasonable.
As the video shows, the victim of the assault is standing still and does not move in a manner that is objectively threatening. This is evidenced by both the video and the fact that the female officer does not react in the same manner as did Officer Hernandez. Additionally, even if there was some movement that cannot be seen on the video that led Officer Hernandez to use force, the force was out of proportion with the purported threat, and the force continued long after the supposed threat would have occurred.
Los Angeles doesn’t need a multi-million dollar pawn of the police union justifying bad policing and bad cops. Angelenos need an independent advocate who knows the law and is unafraid to hold the powerful accountable.”
George Gascón grew up in Los Angeles after his family immigrated from Cuba. An army veteran, Gascón served as a Los Angeles Police Department Officer for 30 years, rising to the rank of Assistant Chief of Operations. In 2006 he became Chief of Police in Mesa, Arizona, where he stood up to the hateful and anti-immigrant policies of then Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio. In 2009, then-San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom appointed Gascón Chief of Police. Newsom turned to Gascón again in 2011 when he tapped him to be District Attorney to fill the seat vacated by an outgoing Kamala Harris who had been elected Attorney General. During his tenure Gascón implemented reforms that are being duplicated across the country while overseeing violent crime and homicides drop to rates not seen in 50 years. After being elected to two terms, Gascón returned to Los Angeles to care for his elderly mother and to be closer to his two daughters and grandchildren in Long Beach. Gascón is married to Fabiola Kramsky, a three-time Emmy Award winning journalist and recipient of the “Premio Nacional de Periodismo,” the highest recognition given to journalists in Mexico.