‘Defund LAPD’ gains traction at LA City Hall

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Santa Monica police officers Sgt. Leyva and Lt. Flores take a knee during a moment of silence for George Floyd, during a protest against racial injustice. June 4, 2020, Santa Monica, CA. Photo by Ted Soqui/SIPA USA.

Two LA City Councilmembers introduced a motion today that would divert non-violent 9-1-1 calls, including mental health and substance abuse crises, away from LAPD to other non-law enforcement agencies.

“We have gone from asking the police to be part of the solution, to being the only solution for problems they should not be called on to solve in the first place,” Councilmember Herb Wesson, who represents parts of Central LA and South LA in City Hall, tweeted this morning. 

The announcement represents a significant milestone in reform efforts by civil rights advocates, led by Black Lives Matter LA, to reshape policing in the city under the slogan, “Defund the Police.” While a host of nonprofits have spent years pushing for changes to police funding, the COVID-19 outbreak brought like-minded groups together over LA Mayor Eric Garcetti’s budget proposal, which included $1.8 billion for the LAPD. 

“You don’t get a document, and you don’t get agreement in the ways that we have, just willy nilly,” said Pete White, founder and co-director of Los Angeles Community Action Network.

“We were doing the budget work before George Floyd and knew during COVID that we did not want the mayor to simply push the budget through,” he said. “We noticed things that just didn’t make sense: police raise, overtime, and the bonuses.” 

Today’s motion follows a special session convened at LA City Hall on Monday, in which activists presented a new vision for spending in the city, called “People’s Budget LA.” Activists, led by Black Lives Matter LA, surveyed thousands of LA residents and presented the results to councilmembers, including recommendations to redirect money from the LAPD to fund housing, health, and job support to disadvantaged communities.



“The world is speaking right now,” Melina Abdullah, cofounder of Black Lives Matter LA, said during that meeting. “They're saying, ‘We don't want a system of policing that puts targets on the backs of Black people.’”

The City Council also voted today to direct staff to come up with a plan to move upwards of $150 million from the LAPD to fund programs and services that support communities of color. 




Credits

Host:
Steve Chiotakis

Producers:
Christian Bordal, Jenna Kagel

Reporter:
Benjamin Gottlieb