Los Angeles County District Attorney George Gascón declined an offer to meet with the union representing many of his office's prosecutors – as they consider whether or not to endorse a newly formed effort to recall Gascón from office.
"The issues raised in the invitational letter appear political and have nothing to do with improving the working conditions of the individuals your board represents," Gascón said in the letter which was provided to reporters.
The Association of Deputy District Attorneys had requested last week that Gascón take part in an online question-and-answer session so its members could decide on whether the union should back the recall.
"No competent elected official should be afraid of answering questions. While we are surprised that Mr. Gascón chose to decline our invitation to make his case as to why he should not be recalled, the ADDA will proceed on a vote," the ADDA said after receiving the message from Gascón.
The prosecutors union did not participate in a previous recall campaign that failed last year to gather enough signatures to qualify for the ballot.
The invitation to Gascón, sent Feb. 4, said such a recall is only warranted by a serious breach of the public trust.
"The breach we see as most harmful is your purposeful inaction in the face of increasing and distressing violence against innocent members of the public," the Association said. "We hoped there would be a course correction. We have seen none."
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Gascón swept into office in 2020 with a progressive justice reform agenda, and as soon as he was sworn-in, initiated a series of special directives that eliminatedthe use of sentencing enhancements for gang membership, certain uses of guns, and for prior convictions.
The new recall campaign is being managed by, among others, former District Attorney Steve Cooley, former prosecutor Kathy Cady, former LAPD officer and LA City Council member Dennis Zine, and Tania Owen, the widow of LA County Sheriff's Deputy Steve Owen who was murdered while on duty.
"Victims are angry, they organizing, and because we've been able to find support, I'm confident we'll get this on the ballot," said Cady, who spent 31 years at the DA's office and now works privately as a crime victims' advocate in court.
"This is not a partisan issue, we have funding and support from across the political spectrum," she said. "These are people who have felt completely abandoned by their elected officials. They're from all over LA County."
The recall was endorsed Monday by the Association for Los Angeles Deputy Sheriffs, or ALADS, that said in a message to its members that Gascón's reforms have "emboldened criminal behavior."
LA Magazine reported last week that an array of "deep-pocketed" donors have now backed it, including supermarket magnate Ron Burkle, mall developer Richard Weintraub, and movie studio co-founder Mike Medavoy.
To qualify for the November 2022 ballot the recall’s backers must collect 566,857 signatures to reflect 10% of total registered voters in LA County. The deadline to submit the required signatures is July 6, 2022.
This second recall effort comes amidst a multi-year rise in violent crime reported by the LAPD, including a 54% increase in murders since 2019, a rise in the number of street shootings since 2020, and an increase in the number of holdups committed by gun-wielding bandits..
The LA County Sheriff’s Department reported a 41% increase in the murder rate between 2020 and 2021. Overall violent crime in the County was up several percentage points over the same period.
Gascón has denied his office or his reform initiatives have played a role in rising crime rates, that have been punctuated by a number of high-profile incidents that made international headlines, including smash and grab robberies at shopping centers, months of brazen cargo thefts from rail cars, and daytime armed robberies caught on security video in a number of busy tourist and retail areas.
Late last year the LAPD formed a special task force to investigate an increase in follow-home and follow-away robberies that appeared to target people wearing expensive jewelry and clothes. Then philanthropist Jaqueline Avant was murdered inside her home in Beverly Hills. Weeks later UCLA graduate student Brianna Kupfer was stabbed to death while working at a furniture store on La Brea Avenue near Hollywood.
"It's more than just a perception of increased crime," Cady said of headline-grabbing murders, shootings, and robberies. "His [Gascón's] policies on bail, sentencing enhancements, and youth justice mean that people are not being held accountable."