Gascon’s call for ‘modern justice system’ includes attorney focused on vehicular manslaughter 

In his first State of Public Safety Address on Thursday, District Attorney George Gascón urged the need to usher in a “modern justice system” that, among other components, involves hiring an attorney dedicated to handling vehicular manslaughter cases.

The full-time position, requested in the next budget, is necessary to ensure his office can respond “swiftly and appropriately” to such cases, Gascón said.

The district attorney reminded hundreds of public-safety leaders and advocates at the Hall of Justice auditorium that 21 pedestrians were struck and killed by motorists in The City last year, the highest number since 2007. Two months into this year, eight people have lost their lives on San Francisco roadways, which he called “unprecedented” and an incentive to implement the Vision Zero policy to eliminate pedestrian fatalities.

“I am passionate about this effort because when a case gets to my desk, it is already too late; someone has lost their life,” Gascón said. “These tragedies are completely avoidable, and a modern city like San Francisco can and should eliminate this threat.”

Modern technology has meant that advancements like computers in vehicles, security cameras and smartphones become part of vehicular manslaughter investigations. Gascón’s strategy is to have a prosecutor who understands all the forensic evidence available in the 21st century.

“The reason police departments have been doing these is because it’s a complicated process,” he told The San Francisco Examiner. “We in prosecution have a more generalist approach to what is becoming a very specialized area of law.”

If the Board of Supervisors approves the position, the hiring would happen after the start of the fiscal year.

Gascón also reiterated the importance of the engineering of safer streets, enforcement and education to combat pedestrian fatalities.

In his address, he also discussed plans to introduce an arrest alert system to notify prosecutors of individuals known for criminal activity, a restorative-justice alternative to traditional prosecution for young people and kill-switch legislation to discourage smartphone theft.

The City’s justice system “has failed to keep pace with the times,” Gascón said. “Long ago, we lost our ability to distinguish the dangerous from the nuisance, and it has broken our pocket books, the fabric of our community, and we are no safer for it.”

A modern justice system, he said, focuses on crime prevention, victims and violent offenders and “is what will make San Francisco the safest big city in America.”

About The Author

Jessica Kwong

Jessica Kwong

Bio:
Jessica Kwong covers transportation, housing, and ethnic communities, among other topics, for the San Francisco Examiner. She covered City Hall as a fellow for the San Francisco Chronicle, night cops and courts for the San Antonio Express-News, general news for Spanish-language newspapers La Opinión and El Mensajero,... more
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