LA City Council unanimously votes to create unarmed crisis teams to respond to nonviolent 911 calls

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California residents may have to brace themselves for a surge in crimes after the Los Angeles City Council voted unanimously to create unarmed crisis teams to respond to nonviolent emergency calls.

The City Council voted 14-0 on Wednesday to move ahead with a pilot program to partner with a nonprofit organization to launch teams of city employees who will be dispatched in response to nonviolent 911 calls which are currently being handled by armed L.A. Police Department officers, KTTV reported.

Emergency calls involving mental health issues, substance abuse, suicide threats and more would be handled by unarmed mental health workers, medical professionals and others.

A press release indicated that the city council will now “issue a request for proposal (RFP) for a non-profit partner to implement a pilot program, and in addition seek recommendations from relevant departments on creating a new classification of city employees that would be responsible for responding to nonviolent calls for service that are currently handled by police officers.”

The decision to route nonviolent calls away from the LAPD was voted back in June when the motion was introduced by LA City Council President Nury Martinez and several councilmembers. In the following month, the LAPD’s 2020-21 fiscal year budget was slashed by $150 million by the city council in response to protests and demands.

“Today marks a seminal moment in our City’s history in our efforts to reimagine public safety,” Martinez said Wednesday in a press release. “Through this unarmed response pilot for non-violent calls, we will help Angelenos get the mental health and other support services they need from trained professionals. We will also free up police officers to do the work they are trained to do. Ultimately, this will also allow us to provide our Black and Brown communities with the resources they deserve.”

Longtime City Councilmember Herb Wesson claimed the new plan “will save lives,” as he noted it was passed on what would have been George Floyd’s 47th birthday.

“Calling the police on George Floyd about an alleged counterfeit $20 bill ended his life. If George Floyd had been met with unarmed, trained specialists for the nonviolent crime he was accused of, he would be turning 47 years old today. This plan will save lives, and I’m so proud of my colleagues on the Council for voting to move this forward,” the Democrat said.

The Los Angeles Police Department backed the decision, saying it “fully supports” the council’s unanimous vote.

“For far too long the men and women of the department have been asked to respond to calls from our community that would be more effectively addressed by others,” the LAPD said in a statement, according to KCAL.

“Consistent with our core value of ‘Quality Through Continuous Improvement,’ we look forward to the establishment of trained professionals, whether new city employees or community organizations, available both day and night to handle these non-emergency calls that our community expects,” the statement added.

“We remain committed to public safety and in response to the recent budget cuts and staffing reduction have begun the process to shift our operations away from less-essential activities,” the LAPD said. “The alternative services envisioned by our elected leaders will ensure the public continues to have appropriate professionals available to maintain safe and healthy communities for generations to come.”

Of course, the police department also noted the “recent spike in violent crime across our city” in a tweet this week.

Criticism for the plan was voiced on social media where many warned of an increase in criminal activity and the potential for supposed non-violent calls to turn violent.

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Frieda Powers

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