LAPD union wants to hand nonviolent calls over to to unarmed responders

California

The largest LAPD employees’ union proposed Wednesday to remove LAPD officers from a list of 28 types of public safety service calls that they normally would handle — and instead hand those duties over to unarmed responders from other agencies.

The proposal announced by leaders from the Los Angeles Police Protective League is aimed at freeing up more officers to respond to violent crimes as the department faces a staffing shortage.

In December 2022, LAPD Chief Michel Moore told the Police Commission that cadet enrollment was much lower than usual. Moore announced a program in January that would hire back more than 200 retired officers in an effort to beef up the department’s ranks.

The LAPD does have staff members that respond to non-violent and mental health calls, including 17 “SMART” (Systemwide Mental Assessment Response Team) teams with over 60 officers, but the union acknowledged that this would require a much bigger undertaking.

“We do not take this proposal lightly, nor do we want to diminish the importance of some of these calls,” said Jerretta Sandoz, vice president of the LAPPL. “What we want to do is align the right calls with the right responders.”

The union is proposing removing officers from calls like non-fatal car accidents, noise complaints, non-violent mental health incidents, and homeless encampment cleanups. The city has taken steps to potentially remove police officers from some calls — a new Office of Unarmed Response and Safety was created by the City Council in 2022 — but this is the first major offer that the union has brought to the table.

“I appreciate the union’s effort on this issue,” said District 15 Councilman Tim McOsker, who sits on the city committee that bargains with local unions. “On this list are calls for service that reasonably and safely don’t require an armed officer. As city leadership continues to work on our unarmed response programs and with more work to be done in this area, I look forward to working together on this.”

The LAPD already has begun the process of removing officers from these calls as a pilot program in its Pacific Division and training dispatchers to send unarmed responders instead, according to Sandoz. It is unclear, however, who those responders, how the program will expand further into the department’s footprint, or where the funding for the additional staff to respond to those calls will come from.

“The Police Protective League does not have any game in the funding,” Sandoz said. “That will be the Mayor’s office…the Los Angeles Police Department has not given us that information yet.”

Local anti-police activists say the move is long overdue, but the motives behind it are questionable.

“I think this is a ploy,” said Jason Reedy, an organizer with local activist group People’s City Council. “I thought it was interesting that they wanted to distance themselves from those kinds of calls, but in no way advocated for funding to go towards the people that will have to service those calls.”

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