‘I Care Deeply for What Happens in Our City': San Francisco District Attorney George Gascon Reflects on Career

San Francisco District Attorney George Gascon said his decision to not seek re-election is 100 percent about family and taking care of his 90-year-old mother.

In eight years in office, he has trail-blazed, butted heads with officials and changed policy. Whatever you think of Gascon, you cannot argue he has left an imprint of San Francisco.

"It becomes a part of you, right? Your identity and the sense that I care so much for the work -- I care deeply for what happens in our city," Gascon said in an interview with NBC Bay Area.

Gascon described "agonizing" over the decision not to run for San Francisco DA beyond 2019. On a long crusade for justice, Gascon kicked off his law enforcement career in the 1980s on a Los Angeles street beat.

"One of the most frustrating things for me was when I got into the cycle where I had begun to arrest the kids of some of the people who I had arrested years earlier," he said.

Convinced the criminal justice unfairly affects communities of color, Gascon backed Proposition 47, reducing drug possession and petty theft from felony to misdemeanor.

"They come in because they are doing the same things as the rest of the population, but they happen to be poor, they happen to be black, they happen to be brown," Gascon said.

The law led to thousands of people released from state prison, but cricis say created fertile conditions for an eruption in property crime.

"What often people forget is that the work of the DA, but for some really small universe of white-collar crime and corruption, really begins when the police brings somebody through your door," Gascon said.

Gascon credits San Francisco Police Department with cracking down on property crime in recent months. But Gascon has clashed with the police union and victims families after recently opting not to charge the officers involved in the shootings of Mario Woods and Luis Gongora Pat.

"From a legal point of view, there was not struggle as to the decision," Gascon said. "As a human being, and as someone who has been in policing for years -- and knows what good and bad policing looks like -- it was very difficult and it was very conflicting for me."

Gascon lobbied to rewrite state law on use of force. Paired with a "kill switch" movement to cut down on cell phone thefts and a single-handed effort to wipe out pot convictions, Gascon has carved out quite the legacy.

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