Last summer, in response to the tragic death of George Floyd, millions took to the streets, calling for a drastic reimagining of how public safety is handled, with a critical eye on how, and to what extent, police departments are funded. Within this seminal moment was an appeal to reform the justice system and address the human conditions that law enforcement is trained to contend with but are hampered by the complexity, depth, and breadth of the problem. In response to the call to action and the City’s financial crisis, the Council proposed a $150 million cut to the LAPD budget and other policy proposals focused on improving public safety within the city.
The Black and Brown Councilmembers representing predominantly communities of color take the safety and the funding of our communities very seriously. It is something our constituents demand, and we continuously fight for. During town halls and through conducted surveys on public safety, the community asked us to fund programs that ranged from street improvements to community safety programs. The proposal we have put forward as a council addresses their concerns utilizing our Community-Based Organizations to create job training and pathways that lead to permanent employment. These are not one-off projects, the reimagined funds are an investment towards proven strategies that contribute to the public safety of our communities.
Changing business-as-usual means we are acting with an equity-informed perspective. The Council responded to survey results from thousands of constituents and a report from City departments that recommended allocating the remaining reinvestment money to Council Districts based on a needs assessment, which took into account poverty rates for each census tract. That report was approved by the Council and was vetoed by the Mayor.
On Tuesday, we will vote to override this veto and use these funds to invest in reimagining public safety, the homeless crisis, and youth development. Funds will also be used for services that wealthy communities refer to as basic, yet we still have to fight for.
A neighborhood becomes destabilized through sustained contact with a system of institutions that produce economic inequity and underfunded schools, and the Council intends to focus these funds in a manner that addresses these root causes of racial inequities and injustices.
The funds made available to us create the opportunity to invest in projects that would immediately improve our residents’ quality of life. Street improvements will create safe pedestrian walkways and an environment less conducive to sex trafficking. Job training for homeless and formerly homeless youth that focuses on community beautification. Park improvements and safe passage in these spaces will support a stronger sense of community. All of these investments will contribute to safe, vibrant, and thriving communities.
The recent spike in violence demonstrates that LAPD officers need community-based support to keep our neighborhoods safe. Now is the time to formalize the role Community Intervention Workers play in providing public safety. For decades these skilled and dedicated public servants have worked on call 24/7 and have proven to reduce gun violence through programs like the Community Safety Partnership and the Community Safety Initiative. These funds provide an opportunity to invest in their essential work and provide them with healthcare and PPE.
As we said in the motion, the $150 million cut will not solve everything, “but it’s a step in the right direction to become the city we aspire to be.” The Council remains focused on prioritizing meaningful investments in disadvantaged communities and communities of color and broader discussions and actions around public safety.
We have been presented with a moment to not return to business-as-usual. The decision to override the veto demonstrates that Council listened to what residents demanded in the summer of 2020. These funds will address decades of disinvestment in our communities, create employment pathways, and build the collaborative relationships necessary to truly reimagine public safety. I look forward to working with the Mayor and the other Councilmembers on these matters.