LOS ANGELES (CBSLA) — The L.A. City Council voted unanimously on Tuesday to replace police officers with a team of unarmed crisis response teams for nonviolent emergency calls.
“This is the dawn of a new era of public safety in Los Angeles,” Councilman Herb Wesson said on Twitter. “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. I look forward to continuing this work alongside (Black Lives Matter-LA).”
The nonviolent service providers would respond to calls related to mental health issues, neighbor disputes, substance abuse incidents, and other situations that law enforcement may not be best suited to handle — a step that BLM-LA co-founder Melina Abdullah has been pushing for years.
“More often than not, when such calls become violent, they become violent at the hands of police,” she said.
TJ Tarjamo, the director of LAPD’s union, said that while he may not agree with Abdullah on that, he does support the idea of a community response team for these situations, as long as they are properly developed and not “knee-jerk reactions that are designed to appease current hashtags.”
The Los Angeles Police Department, Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority and the county Department of Mental Health will weigh in on the development of the model, according to the motion.
“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 said.
Also on Tuesday, Wesson joined three other councilman in proposing a replacement for armed LAPD officers in enforcement of traffic violations.
Councilmen Marqueece Harris-Dawson, Mike Bonin, Curren Price and Wesson suggested that the city consider using L.A. Department of Transportation staff or automated technology to enforce traffic laws, including speeding, illegal turns, and other vehicle code violations.
“For years, police officers have used traffic enforcement as an excuse to harass and demean Black motorists while violating their rights,” Harris-Dawson said. “We do not need armed officials responding to and enforcing traffic violations. This practice is expensive, costing the city millions and far too many innocent people their lives.”
If the proposal is adopted, LADOT staff and other city officials would consult with community members and try to develop other methods of enforcement that do not rely on armed officers.
“Driving while Black or Latino should not be a crime, but you’d be hard-pressed to find a young person of color who has not had a negative interaction that began with an alleged traffic infraction,” Wesson said. “It’s common sense. We don’t need an armed response to a broken tail light or a traffic accident. This is a logical next step to reimagining public safety in Los Angeles.”
Wesson said police departments nationwide have, for a long time, used minor traffic violations as a pretext for profiling Black people and other people of color. Data have shown that LAPD stops and searches Black and Latino motorists far more often than whites, the councilmen said.
It was not clear which city council committee might hear the proposal first.
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