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Gill’s Plan to Halt the Misdemeanor Machine Inspires Hope, Not Fear

A letter from the City Attorney Coalition in support of Faisal Gill's policies.

City Attorney Candidate Faisal Gill Facing to the right and smiling. He is outside and in front of a fence. It is very bright and he is wearing a flannel-style dress shirt.
City Attorney candidate Faisal Gill. (Provided courtesy of the Faisal Gill campaign)

To Whom It May Concern:

We have been heartened by Faisal Gill’s emphasis, in his campaign for Los Angeles city attorney, on shifting our city’s approach to public safety away from prosecution and mass incarceration and toward diversion, care, and services that will actually make our city safer.

The LA city attorney’s office holds thousands of lives in its hands when it decides whether or not to seek a criminal conviction for misdemeanor charges, the vast majority of which stem from victimless quality-of-life violations, like drinking in public, sleeping outside, and “disorderly conduct.” Saddling a person with a criminal record for a minor misdemeanor upends their entire life, impacting their ability to apply for jobs, housing, or benefits. These charges affect not only the person charged but also their family and community.

Gill has made it clear that he intends to reorient the city attorney’s office from its current status as a “misdemeanor machine” that relentlessly prosecutes people, particularly people of color, for crimes of poverty and mental illness, and to focus on smarter and more effective measures. His diversion-first approach will make Los Angeles safer: studies show that declining to prosecute nonviolent misdemeanors reduces recidivism and crime. Gill has also promised to shift resources from misdemeanor prosecution to other vital, and under-funded, functions of the office — such as prosecution of wage theft and litigation against polluters and slumlords. We applaud this course.

As part of this effort, Gill has proposed a 100-day pause on some misdemeanor prosecutions. This proposal is best understood as an administrative shift to put the brakes on the prosecutorial machinery rather than a significant change in legal approach — the statute of limitations for most misdemeanors is one year, so a delay of 100 days in a charging decision has little relevance to the final result and no impact on the office’s ability to investigate the circumstances of individual cases. Really, the pause allows the office to do a top-to-bottom analysis of the city’s misdemeanor prosecutions and build a more effective and equitable approach to public safety.

Unfortunately, but unsurprisingly, ignorant parties have seized on this administrative shift — intended to build much-needed community trust as the office analyzes and assesses how to build a more effective, equitable approach to public safety — as an excuse to fearmonger and spread misinformation. Prominent among these has been billionaire mayoral candidate Rick Caruso, who is running as LAPD’s chosen candidate to advance its brutal agenda, and who has displayed a shaky grasp of the LA city attorney’s duties and responsibilities.

While we expect such behavior from a long-time Republican and funder of right-wing causes such as Caruso, we have been disappointed to see other politicians, who should know better, adopt Caruso’s talking points. This is both bad policy and bad politics; as the voters of Los Angeles made very clear in the primary elections, they want smarter, more compassionate solutions that keep everyone safe — not the same failed tough-on-crime policies that have already damaged the lives of so many Angelenos.

We salute Faisal Gill’s attempt to find a better way forward for our unjust, unequal criminal legal system. To those inclined to sabotage those efforts with the rhetoric of fear, we urge you to stop — or, at least, to pause.


Los Angeles City Attorney Coalition
LA Forward Action
Court Watch Los Angeles
National Lawyers Guild
Ground Game LA
La Defensa

Knock LA is a journalism project paid for by Ground Game LA. This article was not authorized or paid for by a candidate or a committee controlled by a candidate.