On Wednesday, the Los Angeles City Council took a notable step towards police reform by advancing a proposal that would create a crisis response team for non-violent 911 calls.
According to CNN, the proposal, passed by a unanimous vote, will allow the city to court non-profits to execute the pilot program. The program will allow 911 operators to transfer nonviolent calls to organizations and service providers that specialize in responding to mental health crises, substance abuse incidents, suicide threats and behavioral distress. City employees who respond to nonviolent 911 calls will be given a new classification.
Council President Nury Martinez called the vote a “seminal moment in LA history” with another council member saying the proposal will save lives.
“Calling the police on George Floyd about an alleged counterfeit $20 bill ended his life,” Councilmember Herb Wesson Jr said. “If he had been met with unarmed, trained specialists for the nonviolent crime he was accused of, George Floyd would be turning 47 years old today.”
According to KCAL, the proposal has the full support of the LAPD as well. “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 department said in a statement to KCAL.
The proposal would create teams of mental health workers, homeless outreach workers, and medical professionals who would respond to incidents that are within their expertise and wouldn’t require the use of a lethal or non-lethal weapon by an officer.
Martinez believes the proposal is a major step towards providing proper mental health services to Black and brown communities across Los Angeles. “We have failed people who really need our assistance. The majority of them happen to be black and brown who are struggling with mental health issues and homelessness. And to give the police department more to handle, I don’t think it’s fair,” Martinez said.
Councilmember Bob Blumfield says the proposal will allow the Los Angeles Police Department to focus its resources on potentially more dangerous matters.
“For too long, sworn LAPD officers have been asked to handle nonviolent calls that shouldn’t require an armed presence and frankly eat up valuable time and resources the LAPD could spend on stopping and preventing actual crimes,” Blumenfield said. “By creating a robust non-armed crisis response model, we are investing in the future of our public safety.”
The proposal will now go to Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti for final approval.