Friday, June 14, 2024

LA City Council takes a small step toward creating ‘Office of Unarmed Response’

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The Los Angeles City Council approved a motion on Tuesday, June 6 calling on city departments to take the first steps to establish an Office of Unarmed Response, while also recognizing it will be a “long road ahead” to accomplish that goal.

Council member Monica Rodriguez, who introduced the motion alongside council members Nithya Raman, Marqueece Harris-Dawson and then-Council member Mike Bonin, recognized that in the last several years the city has weighed dozen of motions to develop alternative responses to certain emergency calls and create an office where “these efforts are housed, measured and managed.”

“This motion is the beginning of that work, and it is reflective of all the contributions that members have made,” Rodriguez said.

The council, on a 12-0 vote, instructed various city departments to create a framework of what the Office of Unarmed Response will look like in terms of scope of work, funding, staffing and establishing primary objectives.

The motion in part instructed the chief administrative officer to develop within the next 120 days a performance management and evaluation program of the city’s Unarmed Model of Crisis Response Pilot — with data from that study to be used to guide the formation of the Office of Unarmed Response.

The council also instructed the Los Angeles Police Department to report back within 90 days with a list of 911 calls that could appropriately be diverted to alternative response models rather than armed police officers.

Council member Bob Blumenfield, who chairs the council’s Budget and Finance Committee, noted that the city’s budget for 2023-24 allocates $14 million for creating an Office of Unarmed Response. That same budget also allocates about $3.2 billion for the LAPD.

“It’s not just a question of who is responding, but what they are responding to and that’s part of what we’re putting together here in this report,” Blumenfield said.

According to the motion, the council continues to take steps to “reimagine and transform” public safety after tens of thousands of Angelenos joined national protests in the summer of 2020 in response to the killing of George Floyd by police in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

Floyd’s death prompted a nationwide movement to “defund the police” and develop alternative unarmed response models to transform public safety.

“Over the past two years, the city of Los Angeles has responded by taking several important initial steps to shift responsibility for calls related to homelessness and emergency crisis response to unarmed, civilian personnel and to implement alternatives for traffic safety enforcement that do not rely on armed law enforcement,” the motion reads.

The Office of Unarmed Response will house the city’s existing alternative response programs, including the Call Redirection to Ensure Suicide Safety; the Crisis and Incident Response through Community-Led Engagement; Gang Reduction and Youth Development; Summer Night Lights; and the Domestic Abuse Response Team.

“It’s important to realize we are already doing a lot of alternative interventions more than most cities anywhere, and we are such a large city that it kind of gets lost in all the different pieces,” Blumenfield said. “So, putting it all together under one roof and moving us forward to the point where we’re going to be diverting 911 calls is really important.”

“This is a historic moment, even though we’re just getting to that next step,” he added.

Council members Tim McOsker and Heather Hutt did not vote.

McOsker left Tuesday’s council meeting early, but he had previously voted to support the motion in the Public Safety Committee.

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