LOS ANGELES (CBSLA) — In just over two weeks, voters will decide who should be running the largest prosecutor’s office in the United States.
In the race are incumbent Los Angeles County District Attorney Jackie Lacey, former San Francisco District Attorney George Gascón and former federal public defender Rachel Rossi.
Lacey, who is completing her second term, was first elected in 2012 beating criminal prosecutor Alan Jackson in a November election with 55% of the vote. In 2016 she was reelected after running unopposed.
But recently, Lacey has faced criticism from groups like Black Lives Matter over her apparent reluctance to prosecute high-profile suspects like Ed Buck and officers with the Los Angeles Police Department who have fatally shot unarmed black men.
“You don’t file cases for political reasons, to win brownie points,” Lacey said in defense of her record during an interview with CBSN Los Angeles.
On her website, Lacey says she has pioneered groundbreaking mental health efforts, fought human sex trafficking and pushed to ban private prisons among other accomplishments.
Though she has stopped attending public forums for the district attorney’s race after being heckled and shouted over while trying to speak. At a forum in January, multiple protesters were removed as the audience chanted, “Jackie Lacey must go!”
“If they couldn’t control the protesters, so that they only protest when I speak and all my opponents can speak, that’s really not a fair playing ground,” Lacey said of her decision.
But her two challengers said they were not surprised by the outrage expressed by some county residents.
“I think there’s a lot of anger, especially in the African American community,” Gascón said in an interview.
“And it’s because she’s failed to meet with the community,” Rossi said in an interview.
According to Gascón, a former Los Angeles Police Department assistant chief under Bill Bratton endorsed by singer John Legend, Lacey’s leadership has not improved the safety of the county.
“Reality is that under Jackie Lacey, and under the policies that have befallen this county, we’re not safer,” he said.
Gascón, the architect of Proposition 47 which turned a number of non-violent felonies into misdemeanors and erased jail time associated with those crimes, claims on his website that L.A County is the largest county and the largest jailer in the nation.
“If locking people up worked, then L.A. County would be the safest county in the world, but we’re not,” he said.
“If we look at the facts, the only systematic study of Prop 47 found that it was not linked to any increase in crime,” Rossi said.
Rossi, a one-time public defender who also worked in the senate judiciary, says on her website that reducing crime and ending mass incarceration are two of her priorities.
“Let’s talk about reform,” Rossi said. “Let’s talk about safe reform.”
And while all three candidates say they want reform, they all approach that reform in unique ways.
For Lacey, reform means calculated and measured changes.
“Oftentimes, these reforms are enacted, but no one thinks about the consequences,” Lacey said. “No one really gets into the weeds and says, ‘Alright, we need this other mechanism.'”
For Gascón, reform means making the county safer while eliminating fiscal waste.
“If I’m elected, we’re going to become a safer community,” he said. “But we’re going to be much more smarter about the way we use money.”
And for Rossi, reform means using her real world experience to inform her decisions.
“I’m the candidate that’s talking about specific reforms,” she said. “Because I’m the candidate who’s been in the court rooms and understands the reforms that are necessary.”
The primary election takes place March 3. If no candidate receives more than 50% of the vote in the primary, the top two candidates will advance to a runoff in November.