Along with $150 million less for the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD), lawmakers in California’s largest city approved sending unarmed community responders to non-violent 911 calls.
The Los Angeles City Council approved in a 12-2 vote to cut the LAPD’s budget by $150 million for the fiscal year that started on July 1.
The LAPD will now be receiving $1.71 billion.
Of the money cut from the police budget, $100 million will be reinvested “into black and brown communities,” Councilman Curren Price Jr., a Democrat who helped introduce the plan, said in a statement.
Mayor Eric Garcetti, a Democrat, said last month that the money would be invested “in jobs, in education, and healing.” The motion itself says the funds should be redirected “back into disadvantages [sic] communities and communities of color.”
That investment is the first step in reimagining public safety, City Council President Nury Martinez, a Democrat, told supporters on social media.
“Affluent communities are not safer because they have more police, they are safer because they have more resources and children have more opportunities. That is the equality we need in our communities,” she said.
The budget cuts will take the number of officers by 231 down to 9,757 by next summer. That would be the lowest number of officers since 2008, according to the Los Angeles Times. Los Angeles already has one of the lowest ratios of police officers to residents of any major city in the country, according to the LAPD.
The police department didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.
LAPD officials said in a statement when the proposed cuts were unveiled last month that demands for law enforcement reform from protesters “are being heard” as it announced the department is establishing “an aggressive reform agenda, which continues the evolution of our commitment to 21st century policing.”
Robert Harris, the director of the Los Angeles Police Protective League, a police union, said this week during an appearance on CBS LA that morale is low in the LAPD.
Regarding the cuts, he added, “When you start tinkering with the budget of the LAPD, even though on the onset it looks large, even $150 million will have serious impacts.”
“If you cut funding from us and delay recruit classes and hiring, it will create a domino effect and you’re looking at about a loss of about 800 officers over the next two years. And with the World Cup and the Olympics coming, I don’t think we can afford to do that,” he continued.
Black Lives Matters Los Angeles called for cutting the police budget by 90 percent. The group took credit for helping influence the budget cuts in a statement on July 1.
The group also said it supported a motion the City Council approved earlier in the week that will have unarmed community responders respond to non-violent 911 calls instead of police officers.
The motion calls for city departments to develop “an unarmed model of crisis response that would divert non-violent calls for service (mental health crisis, substance abuse, neighbor disputes, etc.) away from the LAPD to the appropriate non law-enforcement agencies.”
Legislative analysts should analyze and report on programs such as one called CAHOOTS in Eugene, Oregon, according to the motion.
Councilman Bob Blumenfield, a Democrat, said that officers were dispatched over 20,000 times in 2019 for calls involving mental illness and 15,000 times to conduct welfare checks.
Councilman Herb Wesson Jr., a Democrat who co-presented the measure, said in a statement that the City Council “approved the first step in our plan to replace LAPD with a community-based, unarmed emergency responders for non-violent calls for service,” calling it “the dawn of a new era of public safety in Los Angeles.”