District Attorney George Gascon stands for a portrait in the main conference room at the District Attorney’s Office on Tuesday, Dec. 18, 2018. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)

District Attorney George Gascon resigns seat for run in Los Angeles

San Francisco District Attorney George Gascon on Thursday announced his resignation, saying he planned to move to Los Angeles to explore a run for District Attorney there.

According to a letter emailed to District Attorney’s Office staff this afternoon, Gascon’s resignation will be effective Oct. 18, at which time Cristine Soto DeBerry will step in as acting district attorney until a new district attorney is elected or appointed.

“When I took office in 2011 the criminal justice reform movement was virtually non-existent,” Gascon said in the letter. “The reforms we implemented together were completely foreign to any prosecutor’s office, and many understandably questioned their viability and effectiveness. But nine years later violent crime is at an all-time low, property crime is falling, and San Francisco has reduced racial disparities by half while thinning its jail population. With your help this office is redefining what justice looks like, and the rest of the country is not just watching, they’re learning.”

Gascon announced earlier last year that he would not run for re-election in San Francisco. At the time he cited his elderly mother’s failing health and the need to be closer to his family.

The news comes barely a month before a hotly contested election for district attorney in which former Police Commission President Suzy Loftus, public defender Chesa Boudin, deputy attorney general Leif Dautch and prosecutor Nancy Tung are vying for the seat.

Mayor London Breed, who has endorsed Loftus, signaled in a statement Thursday afternoon that she may appoint someone to fill the seat before the November election.

“People depend on the District Attorney to keep our residents and communities safe each and every day,” Breed said in a statement. “We can’t afford to have an absence of leadership in the DA’s Office because victims of crime need to be represented and people who commit crimes in our city need to be held accountable.”

Gascon served as a police officer in Los Angeles and chief of police in Mesa, Arizona before he was appointed as Chief of Police in San Francisco in 2009 and District Attorney in 2011. During his time in office he has actively worked for legislation including Proposition 47, which reclassified some felonies as misdemeanors, and a bill requiring cell phone manufacturers to include a kill switch in an effort to deter thefts. He was also the first district attorney to move to expunge the records of those with marijuana convictions following statewide legalization of recreational use.

However his office also came under fire for its handling of the Kate Steinle shooting, which ended in an acquittal on all but one gun possession charge, and was the frequent target of attacks by the San Francisco Police Officers Association, which depicted him as being reluctant to prosecute criminals.

“We are praying for the residents of Los Angeles hoping that George Gascon does not do to their city what he did to San Francisco during his tenure; double digit increases in crime, author of Proposition 47 that created our criminal justice revolving door, cars broken into by the thousands and neighborhoods ravaged by open air drug markets and crime,” said SFPOA President Tony Montoya. “We are happy he will be leaving San Francisco but feel horrible that he is taking his record of failure to an even larger county where he can cause even more harm to public safety. Good riddance.”

Gascon also came under fire and was subject to regular protests from police reform advocates, who criticized the slow pace at which he conducted investigations into police shootings and the fact that he never charged any officers in connection with them.

This is a breaking news story. Please check back for updates.

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