The Los Angeles City Council voted Wednesday to move forward with a proposal to create unarmed crisis response teams to respond to nonviolent emergency 911 calls, instead of Los Angeles Police Department officers.
The measure, which passed 14-0, allows the city to seek non-profit partners to implement the unarmed crisis response pilot program. It also creates a new classification of city employees who will respond to nonviolent 911 calls.
“Calling the police on George Floyd about an alleged counterfeit $20 bill ended his life,” said Los Angeles City Council member Herb Wesson Jr. “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. This plan will save lives.”
City Council President Nury Martinez called approval of the plan “a seminal moment in LA history.”
The pilot program is a major step to provide mental health and other support services from trained professionals directly to Black and brown communities in Los Angeles, council President Nury Martinez said. It will also free up police resources so LAPD officers can respond to more potentially violent 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,” council member Bob Blumenfield said. “By creating a robust nonarmed crisis response model, we are investing in the future of our public safety.”
The pilot program specifically enables 911 operators to dispatch nonviolent calls to contracted service providers and specialists who will respond to mental health crises, substance abuse incidents, suicide threats and behavioral distress. The contracted professionals will also provide conflict resolution services and welfare checks.
Lauded by civil rights activists as one of the most significant, tangible measures to arise from recent worldwide protests for racial justice, the motion will now head to the office of Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti for final approval.