L.A. County DA Jackie Lacey faces progressive challengers — a former SF prosecutor and a public defender

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Los Angeles County District Attorney Jackie Lacey is facing two challengers in next week’s primary election who are united in their criticism of her handling of police shootings and criminal justice reform.

Lacey, an L.A. native and the county’s first African American prosecutor, has touted her efforts to place mentally ill and homeless offenders in treatment rather than jail — an alternative sentencing program she launched in 2014 was honored by the National Alliance on Mental Illness as potentially precedent-setting. She plans to wipe out thousands of old marijuana convictions and has spoken against the cash-bail system and use of private prisons. She has also vowed to focus more on prosecuting serious violent or sexual crimes.

Since her election in 2012, Lacey has gone unchallenged.

But critics have attacked her as working to preserve the status quo and siding with law enforcement, a sentiment shared by her challengers. George Gascón, a former San Francisco DA, and former public defender Rachel Rossi have both vowed to end mass incarceration through major reforms in the county.

“Another four years of Jackie Lacey would be an absolute disaster,” Gascón told KTLA.

In particular, Gascón has slammed Lacey’s pursuit of the death penalty. An American Civil Liberties Union report last year found that during her seven years in office, Lacey’s office sent 22 offenders to death row — all of whom are people of color.

Lacey and the other two candidates have all spoken against the cash bail system while Lacey and Rossi both have said they would focus more on prosecuting environmental crimes.

Both women have vowed to more vigilantly pursue prosecution against sex crimes; Lacey created a special unit for investigating human trafficking which she says led to such charges tripling between 2013 and 2014. Meanwhile, Rossi has promised the very specific task of ensuring every rape kit is tested.

Rossi has also called for reforming L.A. jails and how probation and parole is handled. The first former public defender to run for L.A. County DA, Rossi previously worked in L.A. County Superior Court and as an assistant federal public defender in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California.

While Rossi has garnered the support of progressive groups such as Westside Young Democrats and the Latino Coalition of Los Angeles, Gascón won the endorsement of another fellow former San Francisco DA: Sen. Kamala Harris.

Gascón, a former Los Angeles Police Department assistant chief, has described himself as a major advocate of criminal justice reform. He has become a target of political campaign ads promoting Lacey, paid for by the Los Angeles Police Protective League, which has endorsed her.

But the former Northern California prosecutor also nabbed another major endorsement in the race — the Los Angeles Times.

Chief among the other criticism facing Lacey is her failure to file charges in several police shootings and other instances of alleged law enforcement misconduct; Black Lives Matter has protested her time in office with the hashtag #JackieLaceyMustGo.

Even when former LAPD Chief Charlie Beck called for the prosecution of an officer in a deadly police shooting in Venice Beach, Lacey announced no charges would be brought against the police officer who killed Brendon Glenn in a shooting captured on camera.

Her office has also drawn attention for its handling of high-profile cases such as that of Ed Buck, the Democratic donor charged with running a drug house in West Hollywood where two men died. She was mentioned in a wrongful death lawsuit filed by one of the victim’s mothers, who alleged her office violated victim Gemmel Moore’s rights by “race-based refusal to prosecute Ed Buck.”

During a debate last month in Little Tokyo, Lacey drew jeers from the crowd as her opponents attacked her record on criminal justice reform, according to Los Angeles Magazine. Meanwhile, she attacked Gascón as a political opportunist who oversaw high property crime rates in San Francisco and Rossi as unsuitable to lead the DA’s office as a former public defender.

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