As with many US cities and, in particular, democratically ran ones, violence and crime seem to be on the rise. You’d think that would mean cities and their leaders would be on high alert and putting as many boots on the ground as possible to avoid any more destruction or loss of life. However, the exact opposite seems to be taking place.
Instead of working to end the crime and putting laws or at least structures in place to stem the chaos, they are taking police officers off the board entirely.
Los Angeles is one of those places.
Here, City Council members voted 14-0 this week to further impede police productivity, deciding to handle as many cases as possible with an unarmed crisis response team.
According to FOXLA, “With the unanimous vote, the Council will now “issue a request for proposal (REP) for a non-profit partner to implement a pilot program, and, in addition, seek recommendations from relevant departments on creating a new classification of city employees that would be responsible for responding to nonviolent calls for service that are currently handled by police officers.’”
City Council President Nury Martinez said in a press release, “Today marks a seminal moment in our City’s history in our efforts to reimagine public safety. Through this unarmed response pilot for non-violent calls, we will help Angelenos get the mental health and other support services they need from trained professionals. We will also free up police officers to do the work they are trained to do. Ultimately, this will also allow us to provide our Black and Brown communities with the resources they deserve.”
Now, I won’t pretend to act as though mental health services aren’t needed and can’t, in some way, work to mitigate crime in larger cities. I won’t also act as though police can’t be helped out by having some tasks delegated to other areas that might serve the city and its citizens better.
However, I am not about to say that police officers answering a call, nonviolent or otherwise, can simply be replaced. And especially not by those who, as the good Council President said, aren’t trained to do it.
To explain this, I’ll give you a couple of examples that the Los Angeles Police Department has recently received that probably wouldn’t be labeled as “violent.”
Example one comes from mid-city, where a man stopped and got out of his car after a woman waved him down. But instead of needing help, as he thought she did, it seemed she just needed a target for her rage. She proceeded to slap him in the face, push him around, and even threw a small dog at him. Yes, I said small dog, what appeared to be a German Shepard puppy based on the pictures. And of course, she was screaming obscenities at him the whole time.
The man said she appeared to be extremely impaired by a drug of some sort and extremely aggressive. Naturally, he got back in his car to avoid any further harassment or injury.
How would you classify this? Do you really want an unarmed and unaccustomed to violence social worker responding to this call?
Or what about last year when a homeless and clearly mentally ill poured a bucket of diarrhea on a woman on the street?
Or when another mentally and ill homeless man began waving around a machete while trying to hijack a car?
You don’t think cops show up to these scenes guns blazing, do you? No, they try to talk to the person, try to get them to put down their weapons, to come in safely for everyone.
But even their best-laid plans don’t always work. People, especially ones who are either guilty or confused about what is going on, tend to overreact and make the situation much worse when authority figures are brought in, regardless of whether they are armed or not.
So please, tell me again how unarmed social workers are the answer.
But according to the City Council, that’s precisely what they are.
City Councilmember Herb Wesson told the press, “Calling the police on George Floyd about an alleged counterfeit $20 bill ended his life. If George Floyd had been met with unarmed, trained specialists for the nonviolent crime he was accused of, he would be turning 47 years old today. This plan will save lives, and I’m so proud of my colleagues on the Council for voting to move this forward.”
Right, because the police alone are the problem here.