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Less than two years into his career as a Los Angeles police officer, George Gascón said, he saw a suspect reach for his partner’s gun as they struggled to arrest him.

At the time, most LAPD officers carried their weapons in what is known as a pancake holster. Gascón said he knew the suspect wouldn’t be able to pry the gun loose if he squeezed the holster tight, so he grabbed for the soft leather casing instead of drawing his own weapon. Deadly force would have been justified, but Gascón said he didn’t want to take a life if he could avoid it.

The LAPD disagreed, according to Gascón, who said he received a disciplinary letter questioning his tactics.

The incident would come to shape his thinking on the culture of policing, as an officer and later as district attorney in San Francisco.

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