For Immediate Release June 02, 2020

LAW ENFORCEMENT LEADERS CALL ON STATE BAR TO CREATE NEW ETHICS RULE TO #CURETHECONFLICT OF INTEREST BETWEEN PROSECUTORS AND POLICE UNIONS


Jun 02, 2020

LOS ANGELES 鈥聽In the wake of mass protests following the killing of George Floyd by Minneapolis police officers, a coalition of current and former elected prosecutors representing millions of Californians in diverse counties banded together to聽call on the California State Bar聽to cure the conflict of interest created by police unions鈥 outsized influence in local elections. The new rule would explicitly preclude elected prosecutors鈥攐r prosecutors seeking election鈥攆rom seeking or accepting political or financial support from law enforcement unions.

鈥淲hen videos emerge like the one depicting the killing of George Floyd or Ahmaud Arbery, the damage it does to the entire criminal justice system cannot be overstated,鈥 said former District Attorney and Assistant Chief of the LAPD, George Gasc贸n. 鈥淭hat damage, however, is further compounded by delays in the condemnation, arrest, and charging of the involved law enforcement officers. These feelings, these protests, and the pain we鈥檙e seeing, would not be as raw and widespread if we had seen police held accountable by local prosecutors quickly and with regularity. An important step in curing this pain is curing the conflict of interest that gives, at minimum, the appearance that police do not face consequences swiftly鈥搊r at all鈥揹ue to the proximity and political influence of their union.鈥

鈥淭he legal representation of an accused officer is generally financed by their law enforcement union,鈥 said Contra Costa District Attorney Diana Becton. 鈥淚t is illogical that the rules prohibit prosecutors from soliciting and benefiting from financial and political support from an accused officer鈥檚 advocate in court, while enabling the prosecutor to benefit financially and politically from the accused鈥檚 advocate in public.鈥

鈥淒istrict Attorneys will undoubtedly review use of force incidents involving police officers,鈥 said San Francisco District Attorney Chesa Boudin. 鈥淲hen they do, the financial and political support of these unions should not be allowed to influence that decision making.鈥

鈥淲e have a tremendous amount of work ahead of us to restore trust in our profession, but trust must be earned, it cannot be demanded,鈥 said San Joaquin County District Attorney Tori Verber Salazar. 鈥淭he first step to earning that trust back is ensuring the independence of county prosecutors is beyond reproach.鈥

Prosecutors are in a unique position of having to work closely with law enforcement and simultaneously evaluate whether crimes have been committed by these same officers. Recent events involving police misconduct in which prosecutors either delayed or failed to file charges have shined a light on the importance of prosecutors making decisions regarding law enforcement officers鈥 conduct without any undue influence or bias. Yet when prosecutors initiate an investigation or prosecution of an officer, the law enforcement unions often finance the legal representation of the accused officer. Prosecutors who have received an endorsement from the entity that is funding the defense of the officers being investigated or prosecuted creates, at a minimum, the appearance of a conflict of interest for elected prosecutors.

By precluding elected prosecutors鈥攐r prosecutors seeking election鈥攆rom seeking or accepting political or financial support from law enforcement unions, the State Bar will reduce the presence of conflicts of interest and ensure independence on the part of elected prosecutors. This proposal also aspires to help reestablish community trust in the integrity of prosecutors at a time when national events have damaged that trust.

For more information, follow #CureTheConflict.

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George Gasc贸n grew up in Los Angeles after his family immigrated from Cuba. An army veteran, Gasc贸n served as a Los Angeles Police Department Officer聽for聽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 Gasc贸n Chief of Police. Newsom turned to Gasc贸n 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 Gasc贸n 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, Gasc贸n returned to Los Angeles to care聽for聽his elderly mother and to be closer to his two daughters and grandchildren in Long Beach. Gasc贸n is married to聽Fabiola聽Kramsky, a three-time Emmy Award winning journalist and recipient of the 鈥淧remio Nacional de Periodismo,鈥 the highest recognition given to journalists in Mexico.