Gascón to disband LA County DA Hardcore Gangs unit

Three weeks after FOX 11 reported on major changes possibly coming to the way Los Angeles prosecutes gang-related crimes, FOX 11 has obtained an internal memo indicating that George Gascón is disbanding the County DA Office's Hardcore Gangs unit.

The latest comes as sources in the LA County DA Office's Hardcore Gangs told Melugin last week that they were informed by the office's upper management that their unit will be downsized. On top of the downsize, the unit will be renamed because "administration doesn't like it," Melugin reports.

According to the internal memo obtained by Melugin on April 7, the Hardcore Gangs unit will be replaced with the "Community Violence Reduction Division."

"So there isn’t going to be a hardcore gang unit anymore, because I guess the DA, George Gascon, finds that term offensive to the community," a prosecutor in Gascón's office told FOX 11 under the condition of anonymity.

The prosecutor was one of the members of the unit who were called to the meeting to learn that the Hardcore Gangs unit was going to be downsized.

Heading into Wednesday's development, the Hardcore Gangs unit has about 700 active cases and sources told Melugin that management admits the rollout of the change will be a "nightmare."

"The gang unit was pretty much decimated," the prosecutor told FOX 11.

The Hardcore Gangs unit is one of the oldest units in the office and it's responsible for prosecuting the most heinous and complex gang-related crimes in the country. In Melugin's report from two weeks ago, prosecutors had said they feel they've already been hamstrung by Gascón's decision to ban them from using gang and gun enhancements. With that in mind, prosecutors told Melugin earlier in the month that disbanding the Hardcore Gangs unit will be a disaster waiting to happen, given the surge in violent crimes across Los Angeles.

"We can already hear in jail calls and interviews with officers on the street telling us that the gang members are laughing at them, I mean it’s undermined the credibility of law enforcement in its entirety," one of the prosecutors told FOX 11 earlier in the month.

Eric Siddall, the vice president of the union representing the prosecutors in the LA County DA's Office said Gascón's decision isn't a surprise.

"He made political promises to certain fringe groups and it's payback, so yeah it makes sense in terms of that. Legally and in terms of public safety issue, no, it makes no sense," Siddall said.

Gascón's office never responded to FOX 11's requests for comments on Wednesday. However, his supporters, like local Black Lives Matter activist Akili, agree with the DA's decision.

"We have called for the disbandment of that unit because we saw how it was abusive, how it was used to criminalize people in neighborhoods, and we saw that it was ineffective," Akili said. "[Gascón] is simply doing what the people have been asking for, that’s why he was elected."

Also revealed on Wednesday is that the LA County DA Office's Major Narcotics unit will also be downsized, possibly being cut by half. 

Following Wednesday's news, the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department issued the following statement:

"While gang members are busy driving up LA county’s homicide rate, DA Gascón is now dismantling the Hardcore Gang Unit that works in collaboration with local law enforcement. This can only serve to add gasoline to a raging fire of gang violence that threatens the safety of all. This is not reform, it’s beginning to look more and more like a suicide pact."

FOX 11 reached out to LAPD for comment but we haven't heard back.

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