LA District Attorney plans to 'severely downsize' Hardcore Gang unit

LA District Attorney plans to ‘severely downsize’ or dissolve Hardcore Gang unit that prosecutes the city’s most violent and complex crimes

  • FOX 11 revealed the plans Tuesday, citing sources in DA George Gascón’s office
  • The sources said the Hardcore Gang unit could be dissolved by April 
  • For over four decades the unit has been tasked with prosecuting the city’s most serious and violent gang-related crimes 
  • Prosecutors said overhauling the unit would have major negative consequences on the city as it weathers a troubling surge in crime
  • But Black Lives Matter activists praised the idea, saying the unit has a history of abuse against people of color and low-income communities

The Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office is reportedly planning to ‘severely downsize’ or completely dissolve its Hardcore Gang unit in a divisive move critics say spells disaster for the city. 

FOX 11 reporter Bill Melugin broke the news on Tuesday night, citing ‘multiple sources’ within DA George Gascón’s office. 

For over four decades the Hardcore Gang Investigation Unit has been tasked with prosecuting the city’s most serious and violent gang-related crimes. 

Prosecutors who spoke to FOX 11 and many critics sounding off on social media asserted that downsizing or dissolving the unit would have major negative consequences on the city as it weathers a troubling surge in crime in recent months.  

But Black Lives Matter activists praised the idea of disbanding a unit they branded ‘abusive’ toward people of color and low-income communities. 

Los Angeles County District Attorney George Gascón (pictured) is reportedly planning to ‘severely downsize’ or completely dissolve his office’s Hardcore Gang unit in a divisive move critics say spells disaster for the city

Melugin spoke to two deputy district attorneys in LA County’s Hardcore Gang unit on condition of anonymity about Gascón’s plans. 

‘What we’re hearing is that the Hardcore Gang Unit will be dissolved,’ one of the prosecutors said.

‘My understanding is there’s going to be a dissolution of the unit either April 1 or April 2,’ the other said.  

Gascón’s office did not confirm or deny the reports when approached by Melugin, merely saying that there are ‘always ongoing discussions about staffing’. The journalist said he is still awaiting further comment.  

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.  

‘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.’ 

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)

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.  

‘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.’

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)

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

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