This week, amid protests against police brutality and misconduct, a group of high-level prosecutors publicly called for the California State Bar to prohibit police unions from donating to District Attorney campaigns on the grounds that these financial contributions may create conflicts of interest that bias how DAs investigate, prosecute, or interact with police officers.
In a statement to Los Angeles tonight, sitting Los Angeles DA Jackie Lacey has made clear she opposes any such prohibition.
“We need more police accountability measures, but at the same time, I think that any proposal that prevents a union from actively engaging their members in the democratic process is an extremely dangerous path to go down,” the DA said via email. “The same reasoning would open the door for teacher’s unions to be banned from donating to school board campaigns, or nurse’s unions to County Supervisor races.”
A Los Angeles Times analysis in February concluded that, at that time, Lacey had benefitted from nearly $2.2 million in contributions made by law enforcement unions to committees and organizations that supported her reelection campaign.
Her opponent, George Gascón, is among the signatories to the letter that was sent to the State Bar. A former LAPD officer himself, he has accepted money from police unions in the past–and received criticism for doing so during his tenure as San Francisco DA At a press conference on Monday, however, he said he would no long accept such donations, The Mercury News reports.
Lacey stated that “silencing the voices of labor unions sets a bad precedent” and attempted to put the focus on the “billionaires and corporations” from whom Gascón has accepted the majority of his campaign funds. He received $1 million from Patty Quillin, wife of Netflix CEO Reed Hastings, and has pulled in other large donations from monied individual donors.
“My opponent’s campaign in the primary was primarily underwritten by millions of dollars from a handful of billionaires from outside of our community,” she said. “I’m proud to be the candidate of organized labor, from law enforcement to truck drivers to steelworkers to firefighters.”
In a statement, Chesa Boudin, San Francisco’s current DA, put the need for prosecutors to treat police without bias into the context of what has been observed at recent protests. “District attorneys will undoubtedly review use of force incidents involving police officers,” he wrote. “When they do, the financial and political support of these unions should not be allowed to influence that decision making.”
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