As we reported on Wednesday, George Gascón is projected to be the winner over incumbent Jackie Lacey in the intensely-contested race for Los Angeles County District Attorney, holding a 54% to 46% lead. Yesterday, D.A.-elect Gascón held a Zoom press conference to discuss his election and his plans for the D.A.’s office. Below is a link to the KTLA-5 News video of Mr. Gascón’s press conference, and below that is Crime Story’s transcription of his remarks.
Editor’s note: Crime Story was not able to secure a transcript translation of the Spanish language portions of the press conference. We apologize for the inconvenience.
Max Szabo (George Gascón spokesman):
Mr. Gascón is going to give remarks in English first, and then in Spanish. Then we’ll do Q&A. Please put your questions into the chat, and make sure to let us know if you’d like him to answer any questions in Spanish. We’ll moderate Q&A after his remarks.
Additionally, Jamarah Hayner and I are going to drop off now, in order to make sure that you guys have a great video feed. Thank you all for being here. We appreciate you.
All right. Good afternoon, everybody, and thank you for joining us. Over the past month, Angelenos voted in overwhelming numbers, and I am so incredibly honored to stand here today before you to declare victory.
If you think about it, just one year ago, I entered this race. I moved home to be closer to my family. I entered this race, because after decades of working to reform safety institutions in Arizona and San Francisco, I knew that the one that’s here in my hometown was the most important place of all.
When I entered this race, this movement for reform, and this campaign, were considered to be a long shot, in the largest county in the nation, against a two-term incumbent DA. But we’re here, we did it, and I stand before you, committed to making lasting changes that will make our communities safer, healthier, that will restore the promise of equal justice for all, both here in LA, and far beyond it.
To my beautiful and adoring wife, Fabiola, thank you for standing by me, always. I am absolutely grateful for your love, your support, and for everything you’ve done for me and our family.
To my wonderful daughters, to my sons-in-laws, to my grandkids, and above all, to my mother Maria, gracias. Thank you for your support, your love. You guys have always been there for me.
To my team, my supporters, and the thousands of volunteers, and to all of those who voted for me, I am so grateful that you believe in me, and that you believe in this movement. I promise you, I will not let you down.
And to those that supported my opponent, I promise that I will work incredibly hard, to win your trust and your respect. I have learned, over the years, that having voices at the table that disagree with me is critical to my personal growth, and my ability to do this work, in the most effective and plausible manner.
To Ms. Lacey, I want to applaud you for your decades of service to Los Angeles, your sacrifices, and those that your family have made, and for the barriers that you have breached. We may not agree on how to best enhance the health and safety of our neighborhoods, but there can be no doubt that you’re deeply committed to this community.
The election is behind us, but the real work begins now. Just like my hero used to say, former Congressman John Lewis, “Let’s get into good trouble.” Thank you, and stay healthy and safe. I am now going to say a few words in Spanish.
[Spanish language 00:03:33].
Now I’m ready to answer any questions that anyone may have.
Okay, Mr. Gascón. The first question comes from Frank Stoltze, with KPCC. “To what extent, Mr. Gascón, do you plan to bring your own team of leaders to run the District Attorney’s Office?”
Frank, we’re evaluating both internal external talent. I think that’s very important, as I’ve always done, is to take the inventory of the people that are there. There are many committed women and men inside of the Los Angeles District Attorney’s Office, and I happen to know many of them, who have supported me, by the way, as well as some that haven’t, that will bring a great deal to the table.
They are committed to the same things that I am. In some cases, we’re going to disagree, as to how do we get there, but their commitment, nevertheless, is important.
I’m also going to be looking at people outside. One of the things that I’ve learned in my journey, having worked in three organizations, other than my own LAPD, is to bring in outside talent, and especially, bringing diversity of thought, is critically important to our work.
I don’t know how to do the work well, unless we bring different ways of looking at how do we business, in combination with people inside the office, and people that come from other walks of life, are going to be critically important, not only for my success in providing the services to the community, but I believe, more importantly, in creating a sustainable model that will go beyond just the personalities that are currently involved.
I have been given a tremendous honor by the voters. But I recognize, number one, that I work for the people, and number two, that I’m only a temporary occupant. This office is more important than me, is more important than any of us individually. It is for our entire community, and I’m very mindful of that.
Mr. Gascón, next question comes from James Queally, with the LA Times. “Now that the election is over, can you offer any specifics about how you might implement some of your largest campaign promises, be it reopening investigations into some fatal police shootings, which DA Lacey declined to prosecute, re-sentencing Death Row inmates, or expanding the use of diversion programs in LA County? For example,” he asked, “do you plan to bring the Neighborhood Courts Program from San Francisco down here to Los Angeles?”
Yeah, James, and thank you for the question. And the answer to you is that I am very committed to doing those things that I talked about in the campaign. We will stop the death penalty immediately. We will begin to unwind current cases that are on the death penalty track. We will immediately stop prosecuting children as adults.
We have committed, and I have committed personally, to reopening some cases involving law enforcement uses of force. And I always made it clear that there may be other cases, as well, and I’m committed to doing so. We’re going to take a very different look at the way that we handle people with mental health problems.
I am very intentional in the fact that I’m going to be working with community stakeholders throughout the city and the county, through all of our cities in the county, to make sure that we start treating people that actually need mental health interventions and other interventions. I’ll lay down a concrete box in a different way.
Those were not promises from the campaign, those are commitments. One of the reasons why I put so much of this on our website, what I used to tell people all the time, I view those as a contract with you, the community. I’m very committed to those things. And by the way, in our press release, we put a laundry list of things that are going to be happening fairly quickly. And that is, by the way, the floor. It’s not the ceiling.
I am excited about working with many of the stakeholders who are working with us, as well as others that will come on board, to make sure that we create a form of criminal justice in LA that would be a model, a blueprint, for the rest of the country. This is a race that obviously is personal to all of us in LA County, but it’s also critically important to the rest of the state, and the rest of the nation, and I’m very committed to doing not only the things that I said that I would do, but going beyond that, as I continue to learn, continue to evolve, with the input of many of you.
This next question is Espanol, and Mr. Gascón’s wife, Fabiola, is going to read the question to him now, from his home.
Okay, thank you, Max. En Espanol, [Spanish language 00:11:25].
[Spanish language 00:11:26].
Mr. Gascón, this next question comes again from Frank Stoltze, with KPCC. “Law enforcement unions in LA were unanimous in their opposition to you. The union that represents the prosecutors you will lead was staunchly against you. What specifically will you do to convince them to go along with your agenda, which they seem to oppose?”
Look. I mean, first of all, let me say, and I’m very pleased that I’ve already had, and significant groups of chiefs of police have already reached out to me, pledging to work together, which, I knew that it would happen.
But first of all, let’s be real. The election and the campaign is over. The majority of the women and men in uniform are people that are committed to the service of our community, are people that are committed to our safety, and people that work under very difficult conditions sometimes.
To the hard working women and men in law enforcement, as well as the hard working women and men inside the District Attorney’s Office, you will have a partner with me. We’re not always going to agree, and we’re going to hold each other accountable, but you will have a hard partner when we’re doing the right things.
Now, for people that are doing things that are harming our community, for people that are doing things that are criminal, you will be held accountable. And that goes both for prosecutors and for law enforcement. But again, I am very committed to this work, I’m committed to working with law enforcement.
We are all in one team. And the team is about providing community safety for all. So I look forward to working with police, just as I look forward to working with the women and men inside the office. Our community, the people that we serve, are really the people that are important, at the end of the day.
This is not about any of us personally. This is about the work that we have all sworn to do.
Mr. Gascón, building on that, Mr. Larry Altman, with the LA Daily News asks, “How will you win over the support of those deputy district attorneys who supported DA Lacey as their boss, and might have the same concern as she did, about you not being a trial lawyer?”
Yeah. I mean, first of all, I think it’s important now … I knew there was a lot of rhetoric going on with it, in the elections, and I understand it. Elections get nasty, and people, sometimes, they want to put their own taint, if you will, on the facts.
But let’s, first of all, let’s get to reality here. I was a District Attorney already for nine years. I ran, not the largest office, obviously, LA has no peer. But I ran one of the largest offices in the country. And I did it very successfully. I am not someone that doesn’t know how to run a large organization.
In fact, the reality is that I have more experience than most, running very large organizations. We’re not hiring a trial lawyer, we’re hiring an executive, a law enforcement executive with experience in running one of the biggest law offices in any county. And I ask those to look at the history, beyond the politics, look at the work that was done.
While I was the District Attorney in San Francisco, we had a 6% growth in population. That’s unheard of in most large communities. We had a reduction in violent crime.
When we had a shift in police leadership, we went from having 81,000 car break-ins, which were vastly the reason for the uptick in property crimes in San Francisco, and 13 arrests. With a new leader in the Police Department, a new approach to the work, and within 18 months, we began to bring the number of car break-ins down, almost by 20%.
The reality is that I believe, and history has proven, every place that I have worked in leadership, whether it was as a Chief of Operations in the LAPD, whether I was the Chief of Police in Mesa, Arizona, the Chief of Police in San Francisco, or the District Attorney in San Francisco, crime has been reduced, by some of the contributions that I bring to the table. And the reason why I say, “some of the contributions,” because, let’s be honest with one another.
There are many factors that impact crime in a community, that go beyond what police can do, and certainly, beyond what prosecutors can do. But there is no question that smart, thoughtful leadership can have a tremendous impact on the work. And there’s also no question that the methods we used 20 and 30 years ago have failed us. We cannot continue to do business as we have for the last 30 years, and somehow, expect a different result.
It’s also important to recognize that community safety doesn’t travel alone on a single track. Our communities are expecting reform and justice for all. Our communities are expecting law enforcement accountability, and I don’t think you can have one independent of the other. In a democracy, government institutions depend, and their authority flows from the people. And the people have spoken very clearly to all of us, that we’re unhappy with the way that the work was being done.
This was not a close race. That’s nearly a quarter of a million Angelenos that spoke, very loud and clear, and I’m talking about a quarter of a million over those that spoke in the direction. We have millions of people voting, so I think that we need to start moving away from political rhetoric, and I think that we need to join hands to make sure that we do what we have always wanted to do, and frankly, what we have all promised that we were going to do when we came in the job.
I used to remind police officers, when they complained about their working conditions, for some, I would remind them … One of the things that I used to tell that job interview board, when they came in, I never heard anybody talk about, they came in because of how much money they were going to get paid, how many days off they were going to get. They would always say, they’re coming here, because they believe in the mission of providing safety for their community.
When I became the District Attorney in San Francisco, I would interview every lawyer that was hired. It was always the last step in the line of hiring. Because I thought it was important that we had face to face meeting. I never heard a single lawyer tell me that they were coming into the office because of anything other than their commitment to doing the right things for the community, their commitment to protecting victims, or to protecting communities.
So, my message to the women and men inside the office is, that we share more in common than we don’t. The elections are over. One of the things that I learned many years ago is that, in life, it’s better not to have a rear view mirror. When we’re driving, it’s very good to have awareness of who’s behind us, to make sure that we’re driving safely.
But overall in life, it’s good to move on, and I hope that you’re willing, those of you that disagree with me, that you’re willing to move on. Because certainly, I am.
Mr. Gascón, Steve Gregory with KFI News wants to know, well, first he says, “Congratulations, DA-elect Gascón.” He asks, “What will be your first major policy change?” And then, has a follow-up question, as well. “What is your pledge toward transparency, and how accessible will you be to the media?”
Well, Steve, first of all, thank you so much for the congratulations. I really appreciate it, and that goes for everyone that was involved in this campaign, because we had so many thousands of people, so thank you. I thank you, both on my behalf, and theirs.
There are many things that I pledged, and I know you’ve seen the press release by now. But certainly, there are some of the big ticket items that I always said from the very beginning, and I’ll say them again is, we’re going to be, just really abolishing the death penalty in LA County. We’re going to stop prosecuting children as adults. We are going to look at some cases of police accountability.
But, to the second part of the question, the openness and the transparency, both to the media and the community, is number one, as to the community, we had a very broad coalition that brought me to this place, and brought this movement to this place. And my commitment from the very beginning will be that this is going to be a very large table.
And anyone that wants to participate and wants to do so constructively … And constructively, by the way, doesn’t mean that they have to agree with me, because, again, I welcome disagreement. Constructively meaning that you’re coming up, you’re willing to roll up your sleeve. If you’re going to throw rocks at the house, you’d better be prepared also to fix the broken glass, right? So, for those that want to come in and work, they will be welcome.
As to the media, I am a strong believer in democracy and the First Amendment. And I think that if you follow my trajectory, wherever I’ve been, sometimes, quite frankly, to the chagrin of many of my staff member, if there is anything that I’m maybe at fault is, sometimes, that I’m way too involved with the media, to the detriment, sometimes, of my getting the work done.
But the reason why I do so is that because I believe that you guys in the media are the representative of the public. Especially in a community of 10.5 million, it’s impossible for me to be able to touch everyone, or to be able to have a personal conversation with everyone. So having a working relationship with you, and frankly, having you hold me accountable, is important for me, and it’s important for the community.
Now, I’m going to hold you accountable too, right? I expect good journalism. I don’t expect friendly journalism, but I expect people to be factual, to check things, because it’s important, again, for everyone. We’ve seen, and especially in the last few days, and I have to admit that I’m probably as frustrated as many of you, with the misinformation that has gone out, and all the way in the top of the White House, we have a man that continues to lie boldly to the public.
Unfortunately, because of the authority and the credibility of that office, he has many good people that have come to believe many of the things that he’s saying. And I think the media plays an important role in pushing back, when you’re having leaders that are being untruthful. And I have seen most of the media do that very well.
So I think it’s a mutual responsibility, but you have my guarantee that I will be very open to you. And my goal is to be extremely transparent.
Mr. Gascón, this question comes from Claudia Peschiutta, at KNX News Radio. Claudia asks, or Claudia says, “Lacey lost in large part for failing to prosecute police officers for fatal shootings. What can her critics expect from you on that front, given the limitations of state law, and the fact that your office has to work with law enforcement on a daily basis?”
Look, there is no question that the issue of community expectations in prosecution of police officers is always going to be a point of friction. When I was in San Francisco, and I had my own problems … Now the difference between my work in San Francisco, and the work that was done here is, one, of the type of shootings that we’re talking about.
We’ve had many cases involving unarmed people here. And we have cases where we have clear video that really indicates, at least on face value, that a different look should have been taken. I was not elected to be in the police team, or in the prosecutor’s team, I was elected to be on the people’s team. And that requires that I be willing to hold ourself accountable, including police officers, as well as prosecutors.
Part of that accountability is that if police officers or prosecutors commit a crime, that they will be held accountable, just like anybody else. Number one.
Number two. The laws have changed, and I was the only district attorney that worked at the state level, out of my own personal frustration from the shootings that were occurring in my community, where I believed that they were unnecessary, but under the former legal team, they were lawful.
These were, by the way, shootings that I shared with other people, because one of the things, that I believe always in getting second opinions. Just like when I go to a doctor, if there’s something serious, I want to have a second opinion. Certainly, we were looking at shootings where we had actually three and four opinions.
I share every single investigation that we did on a police shooting with both the California Attorney General’s Office, and the US Attorney General’s Office. I am committed to doing the same thing here. And I’m talking about completely unredacted investigations.
I also, in some cases, shared those shootings with people in academia. I had probably some of the most prominent academics in constitutional law in the state and the country look at some of the cases that we were looking at. Because I was looking for a different way, perhaps, to look at a case. And we all came to the conclusions that, under the law of the time, those cases could not be looked any differently, because we were dealing with people that were armed, people that had already harmed, or were in the process, at least, of appearing to be harming others.
The law is different today. And the law is different, in part, because I work with many legislators, in order to come up with a different approach to the work, from a legal sense. And I have committed to taking the most robust interpretation of the new law, to ensure that we bring accountability.
Now it’s also important for law enforcement to know, that for those of you that are doing what you’re supposed to do, you’re going to have my support. I worked the streets. I’m probably in a unique situation, because I was a police officer. I know what it’s like to feel like your life is in danger. And I know that often you’re making decisions in a split second.
I also know that sometimes, the training and the culture of policing in this country, has been actually detrimental to your safety. We know, and there are many studies that confirm, that police departments that use less force, and police departments that have more restrictive use of force policies, not only reduce the number of uses of force against the public, but just as importantly, they reduce the number of injuries, physical injuries to their members.
Just as importantly, they protect their careers. So it really is in everyone’s best interest, both law enforcement and the community, in the legitimacy of the system, that we use less force, and certainly, that we avoid using force when we’re not supposed to.
Mr. Gascón, this next question is in Espanol, and I’m going to ask Miss Kramsky to ask the question.
Sure. This comment is [Spanish language 00:29:47].
[Spanish language 00:30:06].
Thank you, Mr. Gascón. Anabel Munoz with Channel Seven asks, with ABC, asks, “Mr. Gascón, what would be your first order of business? Much of the focus of this race has been on law enforcement accountability. Will you be an opening an independent investigations bureau for such cases, and when?”
Hi, Anabel. The first order of business concerning police accountability and shootings, as I mentioned before, will be, we have a group, including some civil rights lawyers and some experts in the field. We have already been looking at dozens of prior cases that were adjudicated by this office, in a way that, perhaps, I would disagree.
We’re reopening those cases, and if any of those cases rises to a level that it should be prosecuted, I will be appointing a special prosecutor from outside the office to handle those cases. They’ll have the full support of the office, and the resources of the office, but I want to bring a level of independence, at this point, that we do not currently have inside the office.
Whether we will create an independent investigation bureau, which was the model that we did in San Francisco, or whether we create some other model, that is things that I’m going to be very intent, intentional conversations with both our communities, as well as law enforcement. I believe we need to start looking for ways to have more independence, when we investigate this case.
So certainly, the Independent Investigations Bureau in San Francisco is one model. That might be a model that works here. There may be other models. I’m also committed to, if appropriate, lobbying in Sacramento to create state law that will give, perhaps, the county the capacity, maybe, to create a separate office that will do this work for the entire county.
I think everything is on the table. But it’s really important for everyone to know that I’m very committed to, not only the accountability, but also, a greater level of transparency. One of the things that I did in San Francisco, and I mentioned earlier, is that every investigation that we start doing, moving forward, and I’m talking about cases that occur, as I move forward and after I’m sworn in, those investigations from our end will be shared, and completely unredacted, with the State Attorney General, and with the US Attorney General.
The reason for that, by the way, is because I’m always looking for somebody else to perhaps see something that we failed to see. And certainly, in the case of the US Justice Department, and I’m praying and hoping that we will have a different Justice Department … Just as the US law is different, sometimes, in many places where local prosecution may not be available or appropriate, but there may be cases where federal prosecution may be more appropriate.
I’m also very, very committed to working in partnership with both the US Attorney’s Office and the California Attorney General, and certainly, working with the civil rights community. So all the things that are going to be rolling, some of them will occur sooner, others may take a little more time.
But my ultimate goal is to make sure that whatever model we adopt as a county, and this, obviously has to involve law enforcement. And it’s going to have involve police later, as well, will be a model that is uniform throughout the county, will be a model where police departments are not investigating themself. And I want to underline that we have to get away from police departments investigating themself.
Now I understand that we don’t have the mechanisms to do that, but we need to get to that place. In San Francisco, we were fine and able to overcome that with the Independent Investigations Bureau. That might be the model for LA County, or maybe there’s some other model. Maybe they propose to devise an entirely different office to do that.
But I understand that all these things are going to take time. So we’re going to start with the first things, the things that we can do, and we’ll continue to do and evolve. I also wanted the community to know, as well as the law enforcement community, everyone will have a place at the table, because I want to make sure that whatever the solution we finally land on, they’re the solutions that make sense for our community, and for the uniqueness of LA County.
Mr. Gascón, this next question comes from Celeste Freeman, with Witness LA. “There has been the suggestion that whistleblowers inside the DA’s Office, or anyone who reports wrongdoing, are retaliated against. Despite the many wonderful prosecutors, are there cultural issues inside the DA’s Office, such as the above, that you believe need changing?”
Yeah, Celeste, and thank you for that question. Actually, one of the things that I started to get bombarded, really very early on, in the primary, was with members of the office that had experienced harassment, retaliation, including being ridiculed. And obviously, there’s no place inside the work of the office for that. For those that have been victims of retaliation or harassment, my message to them is very clear. You will be protected.
I know that there are still many pending lawsuits, and though I don’t have the details, and obviously, I will be working with county counsel, my goal is to ensure that we reduce the adversarial relationship between the office and our employees. People that have been harmed, they need to be heard. We need to ensure they are given their opportunities, not only to be heard, but to be made whole.
There is no place for retaliation in our workplace, and I’m very committed to ensuring that, moving forward, that we start creating a different culture. By the way, it involves many forms of harassment. Certainly sexual harassment is one of them, but we know they’re being prosecuted, for instance, in disagreeing with the posture of the office when it’s come to how you handle particular cases. And they are often segregated, and they’re ridiculed.
The culture of “win at all costs,” and the culture of simply, or not simply, but perhaps mainly using trial performance as the proxy for being a good prosecutor in the office. We have to move away from that. There’s a place for the fight, and we certainly want to make sure that our trial skills are sharpened, and that we’re very good at what we do. But we also want to move away from using that as the only measure of success.
The realities of the measure of success needs to be our ability to bring the right level of intervention, to solve a problem, and protect both our victims and our community, but also, to be humane and thoughtful about the way that we do our work. I’m very committed to lowering the levels of incarceration. I’m very committed to pretrial diversion. I’m very committed to many things that are going to alter the way that the office currently does business.
But I also have to tell you that I have, for me, it’s very concerning, that people that often are committing very similar offenses, and are very similar situated, they have very different outcomes, depending in what branch they’re being prosecuted, or even, sometimes, what floor or what courtroom they are being handled.
So we’re going to bring more uniformity to our work, because that’s not only the right thing to do, and the fair thing to do, but it also brings a level of … I think it brings a level of honesty and integrity to our work that is really important.
Okay, Mr. Gascón, this next question comes from Gregory Richardson, with SFT TV, Channel 29. He says, “Senator Kamala Harris, if she becomes Vice President, how will you work with the Office of the President on change?”
Well, look. I mean, first of all, I don’t want to jinx it, and I don’t use the word … I’m feeling very strongly that we would have a different administration. I’m excited, because one of the biggest, and there are many, by the way, but one of the biggest problems that I see with the current administration has been the destruction of the Justice Department.
The Justice Department has become shamefully compromised. It has been used as a political tool, in some cases, at the same time that it has moved away from doing the things that we need to do, when it comes to civil rights, and certainly now, as we’re moving into a completely new era for the recognition of reimagining our criminal justice system, and ending mass incarceration, needs to be a partnership, working with the federal government, and local and state, and for those reasons.
Frankly, because I happen to know Senator Harris personally, and not only has she endorsed me, and I’ve endorsed her in the past, but I have respect for her integrity, and I know where her heart lies. So I am very, very committed to working with the Biden-Harris administration, preparing a different reality, when it comes to criminal justice reform, and the interaction with the US Justice Department with our community.
Mr. Gascón, this next question comes from Brian Melley with the Associated Press. “What role do you think the activism following the death of George Floyd had on this campaign? And what are specific changes you plan to make, to address concerns of those demonstrating?”
Well, look, I mean, there’s no question that the murder of George Floyd shook the conscience of this country, in many quarters where people were not concerned about this work before. And here is, I want to underline this, because I know that our brothers and sisters in the African-American community, the Latino community, and there are many other poor comMunities, as well as the civil rights community, have always known that systemic racism has plagued the system, and that people of color have been treated unjustly for many, many years. And I think it’s important to acknowledge that.
That’s why movements like Black Lives Matters and many other organizations have been screaming, through the top of their lungs, for change. But the murder of George Floyd came into the living rooms of white America in a very different way. I can tell you, that in my own campaign, people that we were calling, would often, would not return the calls. After the murder of George Floyd, they started returning calls.
While this was a tragic and horrendous incident, and obviously, in the loss of human life, one of the things that I’m very committed to doing is to make sure, it’s not only George Floyd, or Breonna Taylor, and many others that have lost their life, but their death will serve to create a new reality for all of us. I think if we can use these very tragic, horrendous events to change the course of history in this country, I think that we will be honoring their lives and their families and suffering.
Absolutely, I believe that those, certainly the Floyd incident, and Breonna Taylor and others, and some of them that occurred here in our own community, altered the dynamics of the race. But I also want to say something, because I know often, people will talk about during the primaries, I barely, we barely squeezed by.
But well, people often will look, and I have to tell you, because I am, I’m very methodical about the way that I do my work. Compassionate, but I try to be very smart. And we knew, going in, that we would be able to have a runoff.
If you look at the votes that came for myself, and at those that came for Rachel Rossi, who was the other progressive in the race, well, we split the progressive vote. We combined got over 100,000 votes above what the incumbent had.
Because we were splitting the progressive vote, by the way, the plan was always that there will be a runoff. And we knew that in the runoff, number one, there will be more people voting. Number two, there will be more progressives coming to the table, and thirdly, the makeup of the election will be different. And this was before the murder of George Floyd.
For those that are out there thinking, “Oh, this is somehow a fluke?” It’s not. Obviously, we could never guarantee a success. And certainly, there’s no question that our movement received a tremendous boost as a result of this murder. But let me clear the air here for those of you that are still thinking, “It was almost a squeaker, blah, blah, blah.” It really wasn’t.
We were thoroughly certain that two things were going to happen. Number one, that there was going to be a runoff, and number two, that I was going to be in that runoff. Another thing that would be very certain is that the general election was going to be very different than the primary.
Mr. Gascón, a couple of people have asked about BLM, and asking, one person asked, when did you last meet with them? And another one asking, saying that they’re under the impression that you’re meeting with them on Monday, and just asking if that’s the case.
Yeah. I mean, first of all, that is the case. We’re meeting. By the way, we met during the early course of this election. And I have to say that also, I’m very proud of the fact that Patrisse Cullors, one of the founders of Black Lives Matter, endorsed me in her personal role, not as BLM. BLM does not endorse people. But she endorsed me, and I’m very proud of that.
Listen. We have been through these elections, and we have people that have accused me of being a Communist. Other people are accusing BLM and other activist groups of being terrorist groups and all this stuff, and let’s stop. Let’s knock off the bull. Okay? BLM, like many other activist organizations, has come to existence because the conditions that were created by the systemic racism in our community, and other parts of this country, are real.
The fact that black people, for generations, have been treated in a very different manner than white people, and that poor people have been treated differently than Latinos is real. The criminal justice system has not worked for them.
Black Lives Matters is the result of the failures of society. And they have a place at the table, just like many others have a place at the table. And I have pledged to work with BLM, just like I’m pledging to work with every other group that wants to come to the table.
The only condition that I have is that if you come to work, come to work. You don’t have to agree with me, but come to work.
Mr. Gascón, this next and final question is from Martin Macias, with Courthouse News. “Are you open to expanding internal and external oversight of the agency? And if so, how?”
The answer is yes. First of all, our Conviction Review Unit will go through a complete reorganization. I think it’s important to recognize that this is a Conviction Review Unit that has been run by prosecutors, and sometimes, they were reviewing their own cases. That is not what best practices call for. It’s a Conviction Review Unit that, in reality, has only granted relief to about three or four people, out of hundreds of people or thousands that we know, that may qualify.
The Conviction Review Unit will go through a major restructuring, and I’m looking forward to working with Innocence Project LA and other partners to breathe new life into the system. And by the way, you may ask, “Well, you’re asking accountability.” Well, conviction review is part of accountability, right? It’s looking at our work introspectively, and identifying what we did wrong, and correcting the harm.
The work that our Conviction Review Unit will do will be both retroactively and prospectively. Retroactively looking at those cases, where people were wrongfully convicted, to make sure that we can do the right thing, and people that need to be released get released, and they get the relief that they need.
Prospectively, we need to ensure, and in my administration, this unit will be actually a direct report to me. We have to take all the lessons learned, as we’re looking at those cases that need to be highlighted. This is not something to be swept under the rug, as, “Oh, jeez, maybe we just got cornered here.” We need to highlight those things. And frankly, if we find that there were intentional criminal behavior by any players in the system, there has to be accountability for that too.
As to outside review, I welcome the concept of looking for ways we have outside review of the work. I think that for way too long, prosecutors in this country have worked under a veil of secrecy, that sometimes, it’s not healthy for our work. And it’s not healthy for that mutual trust. Now there’s no question that there’s a lot of things that we do, that have to remain confidential.
As a prosecutor, we often to get to look into behavior and conduct of people, when allegations of wrongdoing are being made. But after a thorough investigation, we find out that no wrongdoing occurred, or perhaps, certainly not criminal wrongdoing that could be proven in a court of law. And part of my obligation as a prosecutor is to ensure that we protect the reputation of good people. Simply because somebody gets accused of a crime doesn’t necessarily mean that they committed a crime, or much less that they need to be prosecuted, or should be prosecuted.
So protecting the reputation of people in our community’s part of the work, and certainly, that calls for a level of confidentiality, as to names, as to people, until it is determined that a particular case needs to be moved forward. Putting that aside, access to aggregate information, access to practices and what we’re doing, I think, is really important.
One of the things that I did in San Francisco, we started to create dashboards that show how many cases were presented, how many cases were prosecuted, how many cases were rejected. All this are important things that should be in the public domain, and certainly, we would benefit by having some form of outside review of our work. It would make our work better.
As a police officer, I worked for most of my life on the Police Commissions, both in LAPD and San Francisco. It’s healthy. It is healthy to have other people look at your work. It’s healthy to have other people with a different point of view, to provide their input, and certainly, when you’re talking about your capacity to take people’s freedom, I think it’s critically important that we bring that additional layer of review.
Mr. Gascón, just any final remarks, or anything you’d like to close with today?
Sure. Contrary to much of the rhetoric you’ve heard, let me publicly say to the person involved, I’ve worked my entire life, since very early in my career, who made sure that people were being protected, who made sure that, to the best of my ability, we were protecting everyone in our community. I am committed to the safety of this community.
This is my home. This is where I grew up. This is where my family lives. But I also recognize that the way that I did the work when I was a young officer, or even when I was a police chief in some places, it has evolved. I tell people, that when I became a prosecutor in San Francisco, I continued to evolve.
Some of the things that I did in my first few years in office were tremendously different than some of the things that I was doing towards the end. And now they will be different too, because I believe, that as a human being, we have an obligation, especially when we’re given the trust of our community to work for them. We have an obligation to evolve and continue to learn. But the safety of our community and the health of our community are always going to be a new start.
I just simply believe that you cannot separate that, in fairness, from justice, from accountability. They have to travel together. In order to ensure the safety, and the fair administration of justice for all, we have to have legitimacy.
And that legitimacy has to flow, not from the badge that we’re given, or the gun that we’re given, or the fact that we’re sworn as a prosecutor. That legitimacy has to flow from the people, because they are set in their belief, that that authority that they have given us, is being used appropriately, powerfully and fairly.
Okay, thank you so much, everybody. We’re going to wrap it up now. If there’s any additional questions, please don’t hesitate to reach out to myself, or Jamar Hayner, and we appreciate your partnership, and your covering this very important race. Thank you so much, everybody.
Max, I just want to say a couple of things again. [Spanish language 00:55:37]. Mucho gracias.
Thank you, everybody.