Progressive prosecutors are making their mark across the nation
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It wasn’t long ago that people running for county prosecutor positions in California and across the country followed a standard formula for electoral success. Communicate a get-tough message, and talk about your commitment to making sure criminals get the punishment they deserve.

But with the recent election of progressive prosecutors like Chesa Boudin in San Francisco, Rachael Rollins in Boston, and Larry Krasner in Philadelphia, voters across the country are sending a message that they want people in these positions who think differently about what it takes to truly keep us safe and reverse decades of harm to Black communities and communities of color. Now, as people and communities across the country speak out against the racism embedded in our criminal, legal, and other systems, voters in Los Angeles County have the opportunity to send the same pro-reform message by electing George Gascón as district attorney.

The progressive DAs elected to office in recent years have delivered on their campaign promises with bold, concrete progressive reforms in areas from policing and sentencing to incarceration. After his election in 2019, Chesa Boudin immediately acted to reduce racial disparities in the administration of San Francisco’s criminal justice system. Among the most notable reform she has pursued: new policies limiting “pretextual” police stops, ending arbitrary “gang enhancements” that add years to criminal sentences for people of color, and stopping local use of the state’s “three strikes” law, which has had similar effects.

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Just last week, Rachael Rollins released a list of 136 police officers in Boston and the surrounding area who have been accused of misconduct and should not be viewed as credible courtroom witnesses. And in Philadelphia, Larry Krasner has made it a top priority to exonerate wrongful convictions based on law enforcement misconduct largely targeting people of color.

On the other hand, in Los Angeles, the incumbent two-term district attorney, Jackie Lacey, has stood firm against these types of progressive reforms. In the most egregious example of her stubborn adherence to a broken law enforcement system, Lacey has declined to prosecute any officers involved in fatal police shootings, including the killing of an unarmed Black man, Brendon K. Glenn, outside a Venice Beach restaurant in 2015. Lacey also continues her strong support for the death penalty, harsh penalties for nonviolent drug offenses, lower standards for police use of force and other racist policies.

The contrast between Lacey’s record and George Gascón’s could not be starker. A former police chief and San Francisco district attorney, Gascón has a proven track record of advancing common-sense reforms that achieve the twin goals of reducing crime and reducing discrimination and bias against communities of color. Among Gascón’s signature accomplishments was his co-authorship of Prop. 47, the 2014 California ballot measure that reduces incarceration and reallocates prison spending to prevention and treatment.

California has seen huge progress recently in electing diverse progressive leaders at all levels of government. With 12 percent of the U.S. population, and as the sixth largest economy in the world, our state is leading the nation in advancing anti-racist policies that work for all communities. And with leaders like Chesa Boudin in San Francisco and Diana Becton in Contra Costa County, we’re also demonstrating the power of committed, visionary and progressive local prosecutors in advancing bold criminal justice reforms. We need leaders in these offices who understand that public safety means safety for everyone.

We are all paying a lot of attention right now to the election contests for the presidency and the Congress — and we should be. But this November and in years to come, let’s also make sure we show our continuing commitment to the work of racial justice by electing progressive prosecutors.

Ludovic Blain is Executive Director of the California Donor Table, a collaborative of donors investing in organizations, leaders and candidates for public office who are working to advance racial justice.