By Kara Roa
San Dimas joined dozens of other cities in Los Angeles County, casting a vote of no confidence in Los Angeles County District Attorney George Gascón and signaling disapproval for Gascón’s policies.
Mayor Emmett Badar ended a June 22 city council meeting discussion about the DA’s policies and impacts with a motion for a vote of no confidence.
“We’re a law enforcement, or a law-abiding, community that just wants fairness to both the residents and to the victims,” Badar said during the meeting.
The motion passed unanimously, with city staff being tasked to draft a strongly-worded resolution that encompasses concerns brought forward by city officials and local residents. The council approved the formal resolution and vote of no confidence in a 4-0 vote on July 13. Councilmember Eric Weber was absent from the meeting.
Despite taking office just seven months ago, Gascón has been the target of recall efforts since March. The Recall Gascón group must gather 579,062 signatures by Oct. 27 in order to hold a recall election in November, according to nonprofit election guide Ballotpedia.
“The people that are pushing for this recall, they’re not about community safety or community health. They’re really about punishment,” Gascón said during a virtual Backlash to Justice II event, hosted by Interfaith Communities United for Justice and Peace on June 27.
An advocate for criminal justice reform, Gascón criticized the current prison system as problematic and referenced high rates of convicted criminals reoffending.
“It has increased insecurity. It has increased the harm of crime. We have a system that fails somewhere around 70% of the time,” Gascón said.
Gascón addressed dissension in his ranks and the district attorneys who have become vocal and active in their disapproval of him.
“We have a small variable that is fighting us, and those are the ones that you’re seeing on Fox News, KFI. Those are the ones that you see going to cities, especially around the San Gabriel Valley or up and down the 210 and 605 corridor — which by the way, were the same communities that opposed my election,” Gascón said.
He also addressed city council members and mayors with law enforcement backgrounds.
“There are sometimes mayors that are either current law enforcement officers or former. And you begin to understand why often, the budgets or the way they’re dealing with lawsuits and all that stuff is almost like sort of hiding the expenses of battle,” Gascón said.
The city invited several high-profile speakers including Deputy DA Jon Hatami and Los Angeles County Undersheriff Timothy Murakami to the June 22 city council meeting to discuss the impact of Gascón’s policies on San Dimas.
Hatami, who currently works under Gascón, has been a child abuse prosecutor for over 15 years. He claims Gascón’s policies prioritize criminals over victims.
“George Gascón cares more about criminals and wrongdoers and murderers and rapists and child abusers and child molesters than he does about normal individuals who are in this community, about victims, about survivors, about families, about children. The DA is supposed to fight for all, justice for everyone. And he’s just not doing that,” Hatami said.
Hatami also questioned the DA’s transparency after Gascón failed to attend the San Dimas City Council meeting and similar discussions in over 20 cities.
Murakami spoke about the impact of Gascón’s policies from a law enforcement point of view. He cautioned the city that, while well-intentioned, Gascón’s policies would diminish the quality of life in San Dimas through failure to prosecute misdemeanors.
“San Dimas is a safe city, and you guys are concerned about quality of life. Well, quality of life oftentimes involves misdemeanor crimes,” said Murakami.
Murakami said Gascón’s failure to prosecute smaller petty crimes would lead to larger issues and bigger crimes. He explained that investing in law enforcement leads to investment in “the American tenets of peace and safety in your home.”
Councilmember Weber, a residential burglary detective, shared Murakami’s concern about the lasting effects of crime and its impact on residents.
“When things start to get back open, people start going back to work in person, there will be an absolute avalanche of residential burglaries,” Weber said.
Councilmember Ryan Vienna, a lieutenant for the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, expressed frustration at the possible lack of effectiveness of law enforcement investments made by the city, including automatic license plate reader cameras, purchased to assist the sheriff’s station.
“We’ve had to invest in the Flock camera system to assist, to provide more tools for enforcement, but to what end?” said Vienna.
Prosecutor Tiffiny Townend Blacknell was scheduled to attend the council meeting on behalf of Gascón. However, City Manager Chris Constantin said he was notified last minute that she was unable to attend but expressed a willingness to converse at a later date.
Mayor Badar said he was unwilling to meet with Gascón or his representatives and felt Blacknell’s absence was telling.
“I personally am not interested in having a one-on-one meeting with the DA, like not interested at all,” Badar said. “He, as far as I’m concerned, his arrogance, tells volumes.”
Badar, a retired Los Angeles police officer, said he was embarrassed that Gascón had once worked for LAPD and the organization was happy when Gascón left.
Los Angeles Sheriff Alex Villanueva also supports the effort to recall Gascón.
Efforts by San Dimas Community Post to obtain comment from George Gascón and the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office were unsuccessful.
Disclaimer: Isabel Ebiner, managing editor for the San Dimas Community Post and daughter-in-law of Councilmember John Ebiner, edited this story for AP Style.