Los Angeles has been rocked by a wave of smash-and-grab robberies in 2023, creating an atmosphere of fear and insecurity across the state. Retail outlets, ranging from small businesses to high-end luxury stores, have become targets for organized criminal groups executing swift and coordinated heists. The frequency and audacity of these heinous crimes — often executed in broad daylight — have left business owners, shoppers and residents demanding that District Attorney George Gascón hold criminals accountable and start enforcing the laws in a fair and equitable manner. However, in a frustrating yet unsurprising move, Gascón went against the public’s wishes by announcing the promotion of Tiffiny Blacknell, a notorious pro-looting, anti-law-enforcement former public defender, to his chief of staff on December 15.
The move has sparked significant backlash among law enforcement and Los Angeles residents, particularly due to controversial statements Blacknell has made on social media in recent years.
Blacknell called the LAPD “barbarians” and an “occupying army” during the George Floyd protests, claimed that “prison was obsolete” and even boasted about being a looter during the Rodney King protests in 1992.
“I was a ‘looter’ in 1992,” Blacknell posted in 2020. “I was 15. I was furious, sad and scared. I had no way to process my emotions about the murder of Latasha Harlins or the beating of Rodney King. So, we went out, and we watched our city burn. And when the opportunity arose, we took some s—t. So please don’t come on my page complaining about protestors or looters. Don’t text me s—t about the Whole Foods in West Hollywood and your beloved Santa Monica. My whole community was leveled. Cry me a river!”
The appointment of Blacknell as Gascón’s chief of staff comes at a time when public anxiety over crime, particularly smash-and-grab robberies, is at an all-time high. Earlier this year, Governor Gavin Newsom pledged $267 million to law enforcement agencies across California to help fight against organized retail theft. Among recipients slated for funds, which began flowing in October, were the Orange County Sheriff’s Department, Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department and Los Angeles Police Department, which will each receive more than $15 million. Additionally, district attorneys’ offices in Orange and Riverside counties have each been awarded $2 million to dedicate at least one prosecutor solely to organized retail theft cases.
However, the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office, which sits at the epicenter of many of the state’s most recent high-profile smash-and-grabs, did not apply for the portion of grant funds available to prosecutors.
Eric Siddall, vice president of the Los Angeles Association of Deputy District Attorneys, said Gascón’s failure to seek a grant is puzzling.
“George Gascón’s failure to secure additional resources from the state to combat smash-and-grab robberies is just another example of his negligence and inability to lead,” Siddall told the Los Angeles Daily News. “As criminals carry out these brazen robberies, the district attorney’s office should be utilizing every tool to put a stop to these crimes. Once again, Gascón didn’t even show up. His incompetence failed all Angelenos.”
Blacknell will be coming in as a grade 4 deputy district attorney, the second-highest-grade prosecutor, and her salary can go up to $15,000 a month. Siddall told Fox News that Blacknell does not meet the qualifications for her new position, which he says requires at least two years of experience working as a grade 3 deputy DA.
“What’s curious is that a grade 4 position requires prosecutorial experience — I don’t believe she has any,” he said. “I think what’s really at issue is that Mr. Gascón just doesn’t seem to follow the rules. This is really about political cronyism rather than someone who actually meets the qualification standards of a grade 4 position.”
It isn’t just misguided social media posts that Blacknell has been criticized for. While serving as an assistant prosecutor, Blacknell was reportedly involved in secretly offering a gang-related murderer a special seven-year imprisonment deal that purportedly was negotiated without the knowledge of the prosecutor’s office and the victim’s family.
While Gascón’s decision to hire an unqualified, cop-hating radical to chief of staff is appalling, it’s not surprising. Since taking office in December 2020, Gascón has let 10,000 cases pile up, promoted the controversial zero-bail policy and seemed more concerned about criminals’ well-being than the victims themselves.
“I am deeply troubled by the recent appointment of Tiffiny Blacknell as chief of staff, especially in the face of the alarming surge in smash-and-grab incidents across California,” LAAPOA President Marshall McClain says. “The decision raises serious concerns about George Gascón’s commitment to public safety and the effectiveness of addressing the rising crime wave in our communities. We need leadership that prioritizes the safety of residents and businesses, fostering collaboration between law enforcement and the criminal justice system. The security and well-being of our communities should be paramount in all decisions affecting the criminal justice landscape.”