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Voters Speak: Dump Tough-On-Crime Prosecutors, Boost Police Oversight

by Dale Chappell

Voters across the nation let their votes speak loud and clear on what they wanted this past Election Day: More reform-minded prosecutors and more oversight and accountability of the police.

In Los Angeles County, George Gascon beat Jackie Lacey for district attorney, after Lacey was criticized by Black Lives Matter for refusing to prosecute fatal police shootings. Gascon promised to reopen investigations into police killings and assured a focus on rehabilitation and drug treatment over incarceration. He also said he won’t pursue the death penalty in America’s most populous county.

“It’s really about redemption,” Gascon said, and about “moving away from punishment.”

California voters also approved an initiative to restore the voting rights of those on parole.

In Austin, Texas, and Orlando, Florida, voters chose two former defense attorneys as their top prosecutors. In Honolulu, Hawaii, voters chose a reform-minded retired judge as district attorney, after the current top prosecutor became embroiled in an FBI investigation. And in Cook County, Illinois, Kim Foxx was reelected as state attorney, the first reform prosecutor to take over a major prosecutor’s office when she was elected by Chicago voters in 2016.

The district attorney race in New Orleans came down to a run-off between two candidates who both pledged to reform the prosecutor’s office in that city. Winner Jason Williams said he would decline or divert more “cases from prosecution, cease using the state’s habitual offender law to raise sentences and never prosecute juveniles in adult court,” reports A newly created civil rights unit would review old cases for over-sentencing or prosecutorial misconduct, he pledged.

Voters in several major cities also voted to create civilian oversight committees to ensure accountability of the police. This includes San Francisco, Portland, Oregon, Columbus, Ohio, Philadelphia, and Pittsburgh. San Diego voters passes a measure to abolish the current police review board and to create a new Commission on Police Practices.

Drug reform advocates also saw sweeping wins at the polls. Out of nine state ballot initiatives across the country to legalize or decriminalize various drugs, every single one of them passed. 



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