The Los Angeles Times Thursday editorially endorsed George Gascon in his bid to replace Jackie Lacey as Los Angeles County district attorney.

“In 2012, Jackie Lacey defeated a traditional tough-on-crime prosecutor to become Los Angeles County district attorney. Voters seemed to appreciate her cautious openness to new thinking, and indeed some of her policies — especially her program to divert some mentally ill people from prosecution to treatment — were refreshingly forward-looking. She was reelected in 2016 without opposition.”

But in the intervening years, added The Times, many voters here and elsewhere in California have moved further. They have embraced criminal justice reforms that call on law enforcement leaders and prosecutors to focus their resources on the most serious and dangerous crimes while recognizing the corrosive effect that excessive enforcement targeting more petty crimes has on communities already bearing the burden of racial bias. They have called on their leaders to reject fear-based prosecution and instead look to evidence: What policies promote public safety, justice, reduced recidivism and healthy communities?

Lacey’s caution, once comforting, now sometimes looks more like resistance to change, according to The Times.

She opposed Proposition 47, a landmark reform measure to convert simple possession of small amounts of drugs and some petty thefts from felonies to misdemeanors. When it passed, she was slow to embrace the changes it brought, and could not adequately report how the decrease in felony prosecutions affected her office’s budget and workload.

She initially opposed any change to the money bail system that keeps poor people in jail before trial while freeing those who can buy their way out; and when she later became more open to bail reform, she used her considerable clout to block an early legislative version of a money-bail ban. She continues to support the death penalty, despite moral and practical overwhelming arguments against it. Although she merits respect for launching a mental health diversion program, its progress has been somewhat plodding.

In contrast, George Gascon, a former Los Angeles police officer and assistant chief who later became police chief in Mesa, Arizona, and San Francisco, and then San Francisco district attorney, is a more progressive prosecutor. “He co-wrote Proposition 47, essentially eliminated money bail in his jurisdiction, and authored legislation and instituted policies aimed at reducing the outsize role of poverty and race in criminal justice. He is one of two candidates challenging Lacey.

“Los Angeles County is the nation’s largest prosecutorial jurisdiction and its district attorney should be a leader and a trendsetter in the administration of justice. Gascon could be that leader. He’s the better choice than Lacey.”

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