George Gascón

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George Gascón
Chief George Gascon SFPD.jpg
28th District Attorney of San Francisco
In office
January 9, 2011 – October 19, 2019
Preceded byKamala Harris
Succeeded bySuzy Loftus (interim)
Chief of the San Francisco Police Department
In office
January 8, 2010 – January 9, 2011
Preceded byHeather Fong
Succeeded byGreg Suhr
Personal details
Born (1954-03-12) March 12, 1954 (age 66)
Havana, Cuba
Political partyDemocratic
Spouse(s)Fabiola Kramsky
EducationCalifornia State University, Long Beach (BA)
Western State University (JD)

George Gascón (born March 12, 1954) is an American attorney who served as the District Attorney of San Francisco from 2011 to 2019. George Gascón previously served as an Assistant Chief of Police for the LAPD, and Chief of Police in Mesa, Arizona and San Francisco.

Gascón was born in Havana, Cuba. In 1967, his family immigrated to the United States and settled in Bell, California. He joined the United States Army at the age of eighteen and became a sergeant.[1] After earning a bachelor of arts in history from California State-Long Beach, Gascón joined the Los Angeles Police Department as a patrol officer.

During his tenure with the Los Angeles Police Department, he attained the rank of Assistant Chief of Police under Chief William Bratton. In 2006, Gascón was appointed as Chief of Police for the Mesa Police Department. He had frequent clashes with Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio over immigration sweeps targeting Latinos.[2] In 2009, then-Mayor Gavin Newsom appointed Gascón as the Chief of Police for the San Francisco Police Department. In 2011, after Kamala Harris was elected California Attorney General, Newsom appointed Gascón to be the San Francisco District Attorney. In 2019, Gascón announced he was running to be the District Attorney for Los Angeles County.[3]

Early life and education[edit]

In 1954, Gascón was born in pre-communist Cuba. Shortly after the communist revolution in Cuba, Gascón's father lost his job for alleged anti-government activity, and his uncle, a union organizer, was jailed for over a decade.[4] In 1967, Gascón and his family immigrated from Cuba to the United States.

The Gascón family settled in Bell, California, a suburb of Los Angeles.[5] At the age of thirteen, Gascón enrolled in Los Angeles Unified School District schools where he struggled to learn English. He recalled: "I was spending hours translating everything with a Spanish-English dictionary. I started missing a lot of school."[6] By 1972, he dropped out of Bell High School.[6]

Gascón joined the United States Army in 1972. In the army, he earned his high school diploma and two years toward an undergraduate degree.[7] Gascón served in the 64th Military Police Detachment, much of it in Germany.[7] In 1975, he received an honorable discharge as a sergeant.[7] After the Army, Gascón completed a bachelor of arts in history from California State-Long Beach while working sales jobs.[7]

Los Angeles Police Department[edit]

In 1978, Gascón joined the Los Angeles Police Department as a patrol officer.[7] After a three-year stint with the LAPD, he returned to work in business management.[7] He served as a reserve officer in the Hollenbeck Division of LAPD until 1987.[7] In 1987, he returned to LAPD as a full-time police officer.[8] Upon his return, he rose through the ranks of LAPD as a Sergeant, Lieutenant, Captain, Commander, and Deputy Chief in 2002.[9] During his time with LAPD, Gascón earned his J.D. degree from Western State College of Law in 1996.

Training Commander after Rampart Scandal[edit]

In 2000, he took command of the LAPD training unit at the height of the Rampart Scandal.[7] He was in command of the LAPD training unit, overseeing the LAPD Academy and in-service training, during the federal government's oversight of police reforms. Even though there was a mandate for reform, then-Police Chief Bernard Parks did not allocate funding for additional training.[10] Gascón utilized a grant that had originally been funded to research community-policing strategies, and produced three hundred thousand additional training hours.[10]

One of his first orders as training commander was to create an ethics training manual for the LAPD.[10] He also implemented problem-based learning and posted a copy of the bill of rights in every LAPD classroom. Michael Gennaco, the former head of the United States Justice Department's civil rights division said at the time: “He fundamentally changed the way the LAPD teaches its officers about civil rights.”[7]

In 2002, Gascón applied to be the Los Angeles Police Department Chief of Police. He wanted to partner with community agencies to reduce California's prisoner-recidivism rate.[10] William Bratton was ultimately appointed Chief of Police.

Assistant Chief of Police[edit]

In 2003, he was sworn in as Assistant Chief of the Los Angeles Police Department under Chief William Bratton.[9][11] In 2004, Gascón oversaw the daily operations of the department.[7] William Bratton credited Gascón with helping reduce the rate of violent crime in Los Angeles at that time.[12]

Mesa Chief of Police[edit]

In 2006, Gascón was hired as Chief of Police for the Mesa Police Department.[13] Gascón had frequent clashes with Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio over immigration sweeps targeting Latinos. Joe Arpaio regularly conducted saturation patrols and immigration sweeps, targeting Latino neighborhoods and day laborers. Arpaio illegally stopped cars with Latino drivers or passengers to check their immigration status.[12][14] Gascón condemned the policies and tactics of Arpaio and his deputies, and actively worked to protect the Latino community in Mesa.[12]

Gascón served as chief of the Mesa, Arizona police department from 2006 to 2009.[15]

San Francisco Chief of Police[edit]

Gascón served as San Francisco Police Department chief from August 2009 to January 2011, succeeding Heather Fong. He was replaced by Greg Suhr.[16] In 2009, San Francisco saw a significant drop in homicides, falling from 96 in 2008 to 45 in 2009. Between 2009 and 2011, violent crime decreased in San Francisco.[17]

San Francisco District Attorney[edit]

In 2011, in his last act as Mayor of San Francisco, Gavin Newsom appointed Gascón as San Francisco District Attorney, filling the seat vacated by Kamala Harris. In 2018, Gascón announced that he would not be seeking re-election, citing his need to care for his mother in Los Angeles.[18][19] He resigned from his San Francisco District Attorney position in October 2019.[20]

Bail reform[edit]

Gascón advocated for the end of monetary bail.[21] Gascón brought the Public Safety Assessment (“PSA”) tool to San Francisco to assist courts in making bail decisions more equitably. Initial results indicate that, compared to defendants released by the PSA, double the percentage of defendants were arrested while they were out on bail or their own recognizance.[22]


During Gascon’s time as District Attorney, property crime increased by 49%. Some of Gascon’s critics have blamed this increase on his office’s reluctance to file charges against low-level offenders; during Gascon’s tenure, misdemeanor charges were only filed in 40% of cases presented by the San Francisco Police Department[23]. Having worked with Gascon, San Francisco Mayor London Breed and City Attorney Dennis Herrera declined to endorse him in his bid to become the District Attorney of Los Angeles County; Breed and Herrera instead endorsed his opponent, the incumbent Jackie Lacey [24].

Drug policy[edit]

In 2018, Gascón announced that he would apply California's Adult Use of Marijuana Act retroactively to every marijuana case since 1975 in order to level the playing field for those adversely affected by the criminalization of marijuana. The move cleared misdemeanor convictions and reduced felony convictions for those entitled for record relief under the act.[25] He partnered with Code for America, a 501(c)3 non-profit organization, which kicked off a national movement resulting in dozens of cities across the country clearing marijuana convictions.[26]

Gascón supports ending the war on drugs. Prop 47, which was co-authored by Gascón, reduced simple drug possession from a felony to a misdemeanor in California.[27]

Data management system[edit]

Gascón implemented and launched the California's first prosecutorial data management system, similar to CompStat, called DA Stat.[28] This internal data collection tool is part of a trend toward "data-driven prosecution."

Investigations of police officers[edit]

Gascón launched a Blue Ribbon Panel[29] to investigate a scandal in the San Francisco Police Department regarding homophobic and racist texts exchanged between over 14 police officers in 2014.[30]

In 2016, following recommendations of both the Department of Justice and Blue Ribbon Panel, Gascón secured funding to create the Independent Investigations Bureau, which investigates shootings involving police officers, excessive force, and in-custody deaths.[31]

Juvenile offenders[edit]

Gascón helped launch San Francisco's Young Adult Court in 2015.[32] He described the program as “a hybrid of the adult and juvenile justice systems tailored to the biology and circumstances of offenders 18 to 24.”[32] In the program, a prosecutor refers a case to the Alternative Sentencing Planner (ASP) who determines if alternatives to incarceration in the community are appropriate.[33]

In 2019, Gascón supported San Francisco's move to close juvenile Hall, citing studies showing that incarceration of juveniles significantly increases a young person’s likelihood of recidivism and that "California’s juvenile facilities aren’t rehabilitating kids or making our communities safer."[34]


Gascón coauthored Senate Bill 962, legislation requiring a “kill switch” on all smartphones sold in California.[35]

Gascón co-authored Proposition 47 that reduced many crimes from felonies to misdemeanors. Proposition 47, according to one study, has reduced the disparity in arrests in San Francisco between Caucasians and African Americans by nearly half.[36] Some have criticized the law.[37][38][39]

Sexual assault[edit]

Gascon filed a civil complaint against Uber alleging that the company failed to protect drivers from sex offenders and other people who have been convicted of serious felonies.[40]

Weekend rebooking[edit]

Gascon expanded the DA’s Charging Unit to support "weekend rebooking" in order to reduce the jail population and reduce time in custody for individuals who will ultimately not be charged with a crime.[41]

Los Angeles County District Attorney Race[edit]

In 2019, Gascón announced he was running to be the District Attorney for Los Angeles County.[3] The Los Angeles Police Protective League contributed one million dollars to defeat Gascón.[42] During the race, he indicated that he supported creating a civil rights division within the Los Angeles County District Attorney's Office.[43]

Policy positions[edit]

Large-Capacity Magazines[edit]

In 2013, Gascón wrote an op-ed in support of the ban of large capacity gun magazines (devices that hold more than ten bullets). He cited, among other things, the large number of mass shootings in the United States.[44]


  • "New Training Program Helps LAPD Meet Training Mandates," Police Chief, November 2001[45]


  • Visionary Award (2017), Southern California Leadership Network[46]
  • Top 100 Lawyers in California by the Daily Journal,[47]
  • Anti-Defamation League's Civil Rights Award.[48]


In March 2010, Gascón made remarks about San Francisco's susceptibility to terrorism by the "Middle Eastern community" that upset Arab-Americans.[49][50] Several San Francisco police officers accused Gascón of calling African-Americans "those people" in "a derogatory way." Gascón denied making those remarks.[51][52]


  1. ^ Stoltze, Frank. "George Gascon Has Said 'We Need To Turn Our Court System Upside Down.' Now He's Running To Be LA's Next DA". LAist. Retrieved 2020-04-29.
  2. ^ Stern, Ray (2008-07-10). "Mesa Police Chief George Gascón stares down Sheriff Joe Arpaio". Phoenix New Times. Retrieved 2020-04-29.
  3. ^ a b Arango, Tim (28 October 2019). "George Gascon Enters Race for District Attorney in Los Angeles". The New York Times. Retrieved 9 February 2020.
  4. ^ "Beyond the Law: District Attorney George Gascón's threat to San Francisco's business as usual". SF Weekly. 2016-06-09. Retrieved 2020-04-29.
  5. ^ "George Gascón running to unseat Jackie Lacey". Los Angeles Blade: LGBT News, Rights, Politics, Entertainment. 2020-02-20. Retrieved 2020-04-29.
  6. ^ a b Nevius, C. W. (2012-01-07). "George Gascón: From high school dropout to DA". SFGate. Retrieved 2020-04-29.
  7. ^ a b c d e f g h i j "He Said No to Naysayers". Los Angeles Times. 2004-06-04. Retrieved 2020-04-29.
  8. ^ Rivera, Carla (10 January 2011). "San Francisco Police Chief George Gascon named district attorney". The Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 9 February 2020.
  9. ^ a b "Two New Assistant Chiefs to be Sworn In at Police Commission Meeting - Los Angeles Police Department". Retrieved 2020-04-29.
  10. ^ a b c d Fremon, Celeste (2002-09-04). "Rewriting the Book". LA Weekly. Retrieved 2020-04-29.
  11. ^ "Chief Bratton Makes Three Great Picks ... LA Community Policing". Retrieved 2020-04-29.
  12. ^ a b c Stern, Ray (2008-07-10). "Mesa Police Chief George Gascón stares down Sheriff Joe Arpaio". Phoenix New Times. Retrieved 2020-04-29.
  13. ^ Branom, Mike. "Gascón to lead Mesa police department". East Valley Tribune. Retrieved 2020-04-29.
  14. ^ "George Gascón: The Fight For Justice | UCLA Blueprint". Retrieved 2020-04-29.
  15. ^ Mayor Picks Arizona Chief Retrieved April 24, 2018
  16. ^ From High School Dropout to Police Chief Referenced October 9th, 2019
  17. ^ Berton, Justin (2011-01-02). "S.F. cops: Homicide up, overall violent crime down". SFGate. Retrieved 2020-04-29.
  18. ^ KGO (2018-10-03). "San Francisco District Attorney George Gascon will not seek reelection". ABC7 San Francisco. Retrieved 2020-04-29.
  19. ^ "San Francisco Police Chief George Gascon named district attorney". Los Angeles Times. 2011-01-10. Retrieved 2020-04-29.
  20. ^ Lagos, Marisa (3 October 2019). "San Francisco District Attorney George Gascon Resigns". KQED. Retrieved 4 October 2019.
  21. ^ State must make cash bail system just and protect public safety Referenced October 9 2019
  22. ^ Bail or Jail? Tool Used by San Francisco Courts Shows Promising Results Referenced October 9 2019
  23. ^ Queally, James. "How Jackie Lacey's and George Gascón's time in office shapes the L.A. County D.A.'s race". The Los Angeles Times.
  24. ^ McGahan, Jason. "Why Do Officials Who Worked with George Gascón in S.F. Appear to Be Snubbing Him Now?". Los Angeles Magazine.
  25. ^ San Francisco To Expunge Thousands Of Marijuana Convictions Referenced October 9 2019
  26. ^ SF district attorney to wipe out 9,000-plus pot cases going back to 1975 Referenced October 9 2019
  27. ^ "Prop. 47 is necessary to put war on drugs behind us". 2018-11-23. Retrieved 2020-04-29.
  28. ^ SF DA Gascón launches state's first website showing prosecution data Referenced October 9, 2019
  29. ^ Blue Ribbon Panel Referenced October 9 2019
  30. ^ San Francisco cops accused of exchanging racist text messages Referenced October 9 2019
  31. ^ The San Francisco District Attorney is now the lead investigator of police shootings Referenced October 9 2019
  32. ^ a b Singal, Jesse (2017-04-18). "San Francisco's Trying to Lock Up Fewer Young Men by Heeding Cognitive Science". The Cut. Retrieved 2020-04-29.
  33. ^ "Changing the Life Trajectory of Justice-Involved Young Adults in San Francisco". Retrieved 2020-04-29.
  34. ^ "Open Forum: San Francisco is right to close juvenile hall". 2019-06-10. Retrieved 2020-04-29.
  35. ^ Cell Phone Thefts Decrease in S.F. Referenced October 9, 2019
  36. ^ Research finds Prop. 47 has reduced racial disparities in drug arrests Referenced October 9 2019
  37. ^ Los Angeles Times[1] "Movement builds to correct major flaw in Prop. 47"
  38. ^ California Globe[2] "How Prop. 47 Fueled the Homeless Epidemic"
  39. ^ San Diego Union Tribune [3] “Criminal justice reform is a great cause. Defending a bad law isn’t.“
  40. ^ KGO (2015-08-20). "San Francisco district attorney says Uber hires killers, rapists". ABC7 San Francisco. Retrieved 2020-04-29.
  41. ^ "City has a plan to prevent unneeded weekend jail stays". 2017-06-20. Retrieved 2020-04-29.
  42. ^ "LA Police Union Contributes $1 Million To Anti-George Gascón PAC". The Appeal. Retrieved 2020-04-29.
  43. ^ Munoz, Anabel (2019-12-12). "LA County DA challengers address homelessness, death penalty during debate". ABC7 Los Angeles. Retrieved 2020-04-29.
  44. ^ Gascón, George. "Time to ban large gun clips". POLITICO. Retrieved 2020-04-29.
  45. ^ "NCJRS Abstract - National Criminal Justice Reference Service". Retrieved 2020-04-29.
  46. ^ "Southern California Leadership Network Celebrates 30th Anniversary by Recognizing 30 Outstanding Leaders During 2017 Visionaries Awards". Retrieved 2020-04-29.
  47. ^ BASF Bulletin Board: Our Members and Leaders Circle Firms Making Headlines Referenced October 9, 2019
  48. ^ ADL Awards Luncheon Event Referenced October 9, 2019
  49. ^ Keeling, Brock (26 March 2010). "Police Chief Gascón Angers Middle Eastern and Arab Community". SFist. Archived from the original on 16 May 2016. Retrieved 27 April 2016.
  50. ^ Knight, Heather (26 March 2010). "Police chief's remarks on terrorism anger Arabs". SF Gate. Retrieved 27 April 2016.
  51. ^ Ho, Vivian (9 March 2016). "SF D.A. Gascón's divide with law enforcement deepens". San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved 27 April 2016.
  52. ^ "SF Police Union Officials Claim DA Gascon Made Racist Remarks At Drunken Party". CBS SF Bay Area. 2 March 2016. Retrieved 27 April 2016.

External links[edit]