All over the United States, cities are being forced to entirely rethink their approach to law enforcement, after protests have swept the country calling on lawmakers to defund police departments. Last week, we reported that in the city of Minneapolis, Minnesota, where the protests began in response to the death of George Floyd, lawmakers passed a measure that starts to dismantle the police department while fielding suggestions about possible replacements. However, this measure will need to first pass at the ballot box, and if voters agree to go forward with the plan, it will be at least a full year before it begins to take form.
In Los Angeles, California, lawmakers have proposed a slightly more concrete plan for dismantling the city’s police department. On Tuesday, the Los Angeles City Council voted to go forward with a plan to replace Los Angeles Police Department officers with community-based, unarmed emergency responders for non-violent calls for service.
Councilmember Herb Wesson, who co-authored the motion, said that new solutions are needed to keep communities safe, because the current way of doing things is not working.
“This is the dawn of a new era of public safety in Los Angeles. The bottom line is that the way things have been going is not working for our communities. This last month has made that crystal clear. We have a responsibility to listen to our people, and our people have spoken,” Wesson said, according to FOX News.
“This won’t solve all of our problems right away. But this move marks a sea change in our city’s approach to public safety and I’m optimistic cities and counties across the nation will follow our lead,” Wesson added.
The motion calls for crisis response teams, and instructs the LAPD to work with the county’s Department of Mental Health, Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority and other government agencies to respond to non-violent incidents, such as drug abuse and incidents related to mental health. This would also include using nonviolent tactics for disturbance calls, such as neighbor disputes.
The LAPD is one of the most controversial police departments in the country and also one of the largest. The department has 9,974 officers and 3,036 civilians on staff. It is the third-largest municipal police department in the United States, after the New York City Police Department and the Chicago Police Department. One of the most well-recognized riots in American history took place in Los Angeles in 1992 after officers were recorded assaulting a man named Rodney King on the side of the road. In the years since, the controversy has not stopped for the LAPD, which has seen numerous high profile scandals, including a manhunt for one of its own officers, Christopher Dorner, a black officer who was allegedly making an attempt to fight back against racism and corruption in the police department.
In the weeks and months to follow, it is likely that more police departments across the United States will be announcing a broad range of reforms, and some cities will probably be more ambitious than others.