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Santa Monica Hires New Criminal Chief

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By Jorge Casuso

February 20, 2019 -- Santa Monica has hired a criminal prosecutor from LA to head the City Attorneys Criminal Division, which prosecutes a wide variety of crimes, City officials announced this week.

Nicole Gougis -- a prosecutor with the LA City Attorney’s Office since 2007 -- was put in charge Tuesday of prosecuting crimes including domestic abuse, drunk driving, burglary and assault.

Gougis, who will earn an annual salary of $211,104, will head a division composed of five prosecuting attorneys, a victim advocate, an investigator and four staff members.
Nicole GougisNicole Gougis (Courtesy City of Santa Monica)

She replaced Terry White, who served as Criminal Chief since 2008.

“Keeping neighborhoods safe is among the most important work that we do in the City Attorney’s Office," City Attorney Lane Dilg said in a statement.

"Nicole is a proven prosecutor known for effective collaboration with law enforcement and innovation in criminal justice policy,” Dilg said.

“She will be an able leader of the Criminal Division and a tremendous asset to our overall efforts to prevent and prosecute crime in Santa Monica.”

Gougis' hiring comes at a time when the City has seen an increase in crime ("Crime Rose 8.8 Percent in Santa Monica Last Year, Police Chief Says in Video Address," January 30, 2019).

Crime in the beach city increased by 8.8 percent in 2018, after a 12.5 percent rise in 2017 that saw violent crime jump by almost 50 percent ("Violent Crime in Santa Monica Jumps Almost 50 Percent to Reach Highest Level in Two Decades," May 14, 2018).

The Criminal Division "works hand-in-hand with the Santa Monica Police Department in the prosecution of offenses," City officials said.

In addition, the division provides "regular roll call training on topics ranging from the Fourth Amendment to body worn cameras to key aspects of effective domestic violence and driving under the influence investigations," officials said.

The Criminal Division also designed and runs a Homeless Community Court, which hears charges ranging from public drunkenness to sleeping in doorways and helps connect the homeless offenders to services, job training and housing.

As the Assistant Supervisor of the Central Trials Branch, Gougis oversaw approximately 34 attorneys and 30 support staff members.

Officials said she also "played a leading role in major projects to address challenges involving the Proposition 47," a state law approved by voters in 2014 to alleviate overcrowding in state prisons.

Santa Monica Police have pointed to the law as having put some of those would commit violent crimes -- including murder, attempted murder and attempted rape -- back on the streets ("Suspects in Santa Monica's Most Violent Crimes Were Repeat Offenders," March 13, 2018).

The projects in LA included LA DOOR, which provides mobile outreach and prebooking diversion, as well as programming to help "reduce entry into the criminal justice system," according to the program's officials.

Gougis said she is excited to "lead the community through the new criminal justice landscape."

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