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Los Angeles’ newly elected district attorney, George Gascon, has a plan for ensuring compliance with the county’s draconian stay-at-home orders: make the city so dangerous that Angelenos will be terrified to step outside.
Gascon belongs to a wave of well-funded left-wing prosecutors who have come to office promising to eliminate racial disparities in the criminal-justice system. They are doing so by eliminating key components of the criminal-justice system itself. Gascon’s office will no longer prosecute a wide range of misdemeanor offenses.
Trespass. Los Angeles streets, in all but its wealthiest neighborhoods, are already overrun by squalid encampments. Business owners who have managed so far to survive the lockdown regularly have to sweep vagrants off their property in the morning, along with feces and drug paraphernalia. The vagrant won’t leave? Don’t bother calling the police. Any arrest an officer makes will simply be dismissed. If a homeowner sees a vagrant climbing the fence to his house, he will have to deal with it himself. l Driving without a license or driving with a suspended license. The risk of being hit and possibly killed by a drunk driver or by someone who just can’t operate a car just went up, in a sop to the illegal-immigrant lobby.
Disturbing the peace. Los Angeles has seen a spate of shootings at rowdy illegal house parties. Too bad if such a party breaks out on your block. Just hope that no one feels dissed and pulls a gun.
Public intoxication and loitering to commit prostitution. These activities are the prelude to greater problems, as law-abiding residents of high-crime communities know too well. The sister of an assassinated Chicago cop warned in The Chicago Sun-Times this summer that illegal drug and alcohol use on residential streets easily escalates into fatal shootings, because the perpetrators “think no one cares.”
Ending such low-level public-order enforcement has long been a goal of anti-cop activists, who allege that it is racist. But polls consistently show support for such “broken-windows” policing in minority neighborhoods. Gascon’s most stunning exemption from prosecution is the directive not to charge suspects with resisting arrest.
This carve-out is particularly unfathomable in light of the attempted assassination of two Los Angeles sheriffs deputies on Sept. 12. The suspect, long-time felon Deonte Murray, walked up to the deputies’ parked squad car and shot them both in the head as they sat inside.
Bystanders cheered; anti-cop protesters continued the celebration later at the hospital where the deputies were on life support. Since the summer, officers across the country have been shot at, assaulted with lethal projectiles, firebombed and run over. That open season on cops will only get worse in Los Angeles with this declaration that officers’ authority may be resisted with impunity — a declaration that strikes at the heart of civilization itself. Gascon undoubtedly subscribes to the false idea that blacks are under lethal threat from police shootings.
The vast majority of police shootings, however, could be eliminated tomorrow, if all suspects complied with officers’ commands. Resisting arrest is the biggest predictor of officer use of force. Decriminalizing such resistance is a recipe for more police shootings, of black as well as of white suspects. Los Angeles’ new DA is also eliminating cash bail for most crimes and is ending sentence enhancements for repeat offenders and gang members.
After California Gov. Gavin Newsom eliminated cash bail earlier this year for COVID purposes, car jackings, shootings and homicides spiked up. The state abandoned its no-bail policy, and Los Angeles County voted in November to continue requiring bail. Gascon has other ideas. As for repeat offenders and gangbangers, they now have little incentive to go clean.
The Los Angeles City Council recently cut $150 million from the LAPD budget, despite the largest spike in homicides in the city in 10 years and a 32 percent increase in shootings. Gascon asks his doubters to close their eyes and imagine an ideal safe neighborhood “with parks, playgrounds and . . . kids playing.”
Yes, dream on.
Heather Mac Donald is a fellow at the Manhattan Institute and author of “The War on Cops.”
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