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Wesson, Martinez Call for Reforms to Replace Police Officers with Non-Law Enforcement Agencies For Non-Violent Calls
By Sentinel News Service
Published June 18, 2020

Nury Martinez (Courtesy photo)

Councilmember Herb Wesson and Council President Nury Martinez, supported by Councilmembers Bob Blumenfield, Marqueece Harris-Dawson, and Curren Price have called for the development of an unarmed model of crisis response that would divert non-violent calls for service away from LAPD, replacing them with the appropriate non-law enforcement agencies.

“Angelenos protesting in the streets, supporting the People’s Budget LA, have asked us to reimagine public safety in the 21st century, and that is what we are doing,” said Councilmember Wesson.

“Today my colleagues and I continued our efforts on this City Council to reimagine what public safety looks like in the City of Los Angeles in order to better serve our communities, as well as our police officers,” said Council President Martinez. “Eliminating non-violent response duties for police officers would be another major step forward in this larger effort. We will not step back from our responsibility to make our City a better place to live for all people.”

This effort will focus on reducing the need for LAPD to be first responders for non-criminal situations. Budget cuts in social services have resulted in law enforcement taking on a greater role in dealing with homelessness, mental health and even COVID-19 related responses.

Wesson and Martinez are calling the development of a systematic crisis-response plan to directly connect people in need to City, County or community-based service providers and replace police presence in non-violent, non-criminal situations with a range of unarmed service providers including medical professionals, mental health workers, homeless outreach workers and other unarmed professionals with specialized training.

Herb Wesson (Courtesy Photo)

The motion calls for the Chief Legislative Analyst to analyze and report back on programs such as CAHOOTS in Eugene, Oregon as well other models of crisis intervention. CAHOOTS is a mobile crisis intervention service integrated into the public safety systems of Eugene and Springfield. CAHOOTS provides many different types of services, including, but not limited to: mental health crisis intervention and counseling, drug and alcohol related de-escalation, family dispute mediation, welfare checks, basic-level medical care, and transportation to social services. CAHOOTS is not meant to replace the police, instead, it offers a service that responds to non-emergency crises so police don’t have to.

“We have gone from asking the police to be part of the solution, to being the only solution for problems they should not be called on to solve in the first place,” said the motion.

“Everyday LAPD officers respond to non-violent calls because we simply don’t have any other mechanism to immediately address these needs,” said Councilmember Blumenfield, co-author of the motion. “It’s unfair to ask officers to do the job of a social or public health worker and it’s wrong to perpetuate the criminalization of homelessness and mental illness. The time is now to rethink how we use our resources to meet these needs and get healthy outcomes.”

“This legislation is a bold logical solution to reduce unnecessary police interactions and improve public safety,” said Councilmember Harris-Dawson. “I am excited to take this critical step towards reimagining how our city operates and responds to the needs of our residents.”

“The rumbling in the streets is being felt right under our feet and is demanding all levels of government to be bold enough to re-evaluate the future of what policing looks like to better serve neighborhoods so that all people feel safer and supported,” said Councilmember Price. “We’re seizing the moment by creating a new model of public safety that includes non-emergency, unarmed crisis professionals and community-based service providers to better meet the vast needs of our City in instances when having a weapon present would only escalate a situation.”

The motion introduced today instructs the Chief Legislative Analyst and the City Administrative Officer, with assistance from the Los Angeles Police Department and LAHSA and in cooperation with the Los Angeles County Department of Mental Health and other relevant government service providers, to develop an unarmed model of crisis response that would divert non-violent calls for service away from LAPD to the appropriate non-law enforcement agencies.

 

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