The Los Angeles specialist Hardcore Gang unit has been disbanded because it is ‘offensive to the community’ in a move branded a ‘suicide pact’ amid rising homicide rates in the city.
For over four decades the Hardcore Gang Investigation Unit has been tasked with prosecuting the city’s most serious and violent gang-related crimes.
But the County District Attorney’s Office has decided to downsize and rename the unit which has been praised by BLM activists but criticized by prosecutors.
The office will be ‘decentralized’ under plans by DA George Gascon with specialist officers transferred to other units despite its 700 active cases.
Branch offices will now have a ‘specialist trial lawyer/gang coordinator’ to help prosecutors with the existing cases, according to Fox 11.
Critics fear it will lead to more gang violence, with Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva branding it a ‘suicide pact’.
Los Angeles County District Attorney George Gascón (pictured) has disbanded his office’s Hardcore Gang unit in a divisive move critics say spells disaster for the city
The County District Attorney’s Office has decided to downsize and rename the unit which has been praised by BLM activists but criticized by prosecutors
He said: ‘While gang members are busy driving up LA County’s homicide rate, DA Gascon is now dismantling the Hardcore Gang Unit that works with local law enforcement.
‘This can only serve to add gasoline to a raging fire of gang violence that threatens the safety of all.
‘This is not reform, this is beginning to look more like a suicide pact.’
One prosecutor said the unit is being renamed only because Gascon doesn’t like it, adding: ‘So there isn’t going to be a hardcore gang unit anymore, because I guess the DA, George Gascon, finds that term offensive to the community.’
But Black Lives Matter activists praised the idea of disbanding a unit they branded ‘abusive’ toward people of color and low-income communities.
For over four decades the Hardcore Gang Investigation Unit has been tasked with prosecuting the city’s most serious and violent gang-related crimes (file photo)
There were 349 killings last year, the first time the number surpassed 300 since 2009 and an increase of 38 per cent on the previous year
The move comes after an increase in homicides and shootings in 2020 which the LAPD said was caused by gang feuds.
There were 349 killings last year, the first time the number surpassed 300 since 2009 and an increase of 38 per cent on the previous year.
Gascón, who was elected to DA in November, has already made major changes in the way Los Angeles prosecutes crimes in his first three months in office, including by eliminating cash bail and the ‘three strikes’ rule.
He also banned sentencing enhancements for guns and gang involvement, which previously allowed prosecutors to seek longer sentences for criminals deemed especially dangerous.
The prosecutors who spoke to FOX 11 said Gascón’s prior changes have already made their jobs more difficult, and things will only get worse if he goes through with an overhaul to the Hardcore Gangs unit.
Black Lives Matter activists praised the idea of disbanding a unit they branded ‘abusive’ toward people of color. Pictured: Crip gang members are detained by cops
‘We can already hear in jail calls and interviews with officers on the street telling us that the gang members are laughing at them,’ one of the prosecutors said.
‘It’s undermined the credibility of law enforcement in its entirety.’
But Gregory Akili, a prominent civil rights activist and member of Black Lives Matter Los Angeles’ Action Committee, lauded Gascón for listening to the people who elected him.
‘He is simply doing what the people have been asking for. That’s why he was elected,’ Akili told FOX 11.
‘We have called for the disbandment of that unit because we saw how it was abusive, how it was used to criminalize people in neighborhoods, and we saw that it was ineffective.
‘Now he’s simply saying, let’s just swing it back to where it should be.’
However the prosecutors said marginalized communities will suffer the most without a strong Hardcore Gang unit.
Gregory Akili, a member of Black Lives Matter Los Angeles’ Action Committee, lauded Gascón for listening to the people who elected him in an interview with FOX 11 (pictured)
‘The misnomer with my cases, because I do all gang violence cases, gang murder particularly, is that all of my victims are rival gang members, and that’s not true,’ one prosecutor said.
‘They miss their targets and they get their enemies wrong fully because of the way they look, whether that’s a Hispanic male with a shaved head or a Black male standing on the corner at the wrong place at the wrong time.’
Akili said BLM activists had called for Gascón to disband the Hardcore Gang unit. Pictured: Protesters at a BLM demonstration in Los Angeles last year
Critics sounding off on social media slammed the proposed changes to the Hardcore Gang unit.
‘[Gascón is] just taking away tools from law enforcement they need,’ one person tweeted.
‘This will end well… considering all the gang-related shootings we’ve had in LA to date,’ another person wrote.
A third critic called Gascón a ‘pro-crime DA’.
Gascón, a former San Francisco district attorney and assistant Los Angeles police chief, ran for office with a promise to enact sweeping criminal justice reforms.
In remarks after he was sworn in last December, he called Los Angeles ‘a poster child for the failed tough-on-crime approach’ and said: ‘The status quo hasn’t made us safer.’
His first major meeting upon winning his race was with Black Lives Matter organizers, who were critical of outgoing District Attorney Jackie Lacey.
Gascón beat Lacey, the first woman and black person to run the office, in a fraught election as part of a wave of progressive prosecutors elected nationwide.
Early in his term Gascón drew the ire of the Los Angeles Police Department and prosecutors in his own office who said he was taking to his position, among the most powerful in California and the US, as a politician rather than as a prosecutor.
The reports about his plans for the Hardcore Gang unit emerged just as the Beverly Hills City Council announced that it is considering filing a ‘no confidence’ resolution against Gascón.
Critics on social media slammed the proposed changes to the Hardcore Gang unit