• Rueben Vargas

LA City Council approves plan to add unarmed crisis teams to respond to nonviolent emergencies

LA City Council President Nury Martinez approving the measure to create a nonviolent response team on Oct. 14th.

On October 14th, the LA City Council unanimously agreed to create unarmed crisis teams to respond to nonviolent emergencies. The measure is in direct response to the ongoing Black Lives Matter protests and civil unrest over police brutality against POC individuals and communities.

"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. By creating a robust unarmed crisis response model, we are investing in the future of our public safety,” said LA Councilmember Bob Blumenfeld.

The newly approved program enables 911 operators to dispatch contracted service providers and specialists to nonviolent situations. These situations include mental heath crises, substance abuse instances, suicide prevention, behavioral distress, wellness checks, and conflict resolution. According to Council President Nury Martinez the program is specifically intended with POC communities in mind. “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,” said Martinez. The motion now awaits final approval from LA Mayor Eric Garcetti.

The new plan follows initial responses from the LA City Council in light of the ongoing protests for racial justice and civil unrest due to police violence in POC communities. The council initially voted unanimously on a plan to create a nonviolent task force back in June. This was followed by a 12-2 vote to slash the LAPD budget by $150 million in July. In a statement to CBSLA, the LAPD expressed “full support” for the new plan:

“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. Consistent with our core value of ‘Quality Through Continuous Improvement,’ we look forward to the establishment of trained professionals, whether new city employees or community organizations, available both day and night to handle these non-emergency calls that our community expects.”

Last month, a study was released by the City of Los Angeles Chief Legal Analyst on unarmed models of Crisis response. The study specifically researched a mobile mental health crisis response team created in Eugene, OR. The team is known as Crisis Assistance Helping Out On The Streets, or CAHOOTS . The program was founded in 1989 and has responded to 23,000 calls across the Eugene area. CAHOOTS team members are specially trained to de-escalate mental health crises. The report also cites other nonviolent emergency teams across the nation. Including Austin’s Expanded Mobile Crisis Outreach Team (EMCOT), Denver’s Support Team Assisted Response (STAR), and Oakland’s Mobile Assistance Community Response of Oakland (MACRO).

Rueben Vargas is the head of social media at Our Revolution LA and a research assistant with Your Revolution LA. He can be found on Twitter @ruebenbvargas. His DMs are open and his Signal is available for news tips and investigative leads.