Los Angeles City Council members believe they have an answer to minimize deaths at the hands of LAPD officers. Have unarmed mental health workers deal with the people instead. The proposal is an emergency-response model using trained “specialists” instead of LAPD officers to attend those who are suffering from mental health and substance abuse, including the homeless.
Submitted by City Council members Nury Martinez, Herb Wesson, Marqueece Harris-Dawson, Curren Price and Bob Blumenfield, the motion “asks city departments to work with the Los Angeles Police Department and Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority to develop a model that diverts nonviolent calls for service away from the LAPD and to ‘appropriate non-law enforcement agencies” reported the Los Angeles Times.
The council likely is looking at other programs such as the “Cahoots” program in Eugene, Oregon. “Cahoots” stands for ‘Crisis Assistance Helping Out on the Streets’ which sends teams of medics and mental health counselors instead of police if the 911 operators do not believe armed intervention will not be necessary. That’s an awful lot of pressure to put on dispatchers.
According to the Times, “Cahoots” executive coordinator of the clinic the operation runs out of, said of 133,000 calls to 911 last year, the program answered 18% of those calls. Of that 18%, the counselors requested police backup 150 times. The executive director also said they operated on a $2 million budget last year and saved the area an astounding $14 million in ambulance transport and emergency room care costs.
Los Angeles’ City Council also voted this week to move forward with “studying ways to cut the LAPD’s budget by $100 million to $150 million and put the money into community programs.” Jerretta Sandoz, vice president of the Los Angeles Police Protective League, the union representing that officer, says they are open to discussion. Many representatives of the union have brought attention to the demands on officers to which have included duties such as to also be therapists, drug treatment counselors, social workers, and EMTs.
“Not every call our city leaders have asked us to respond to should be a police response,” said Sandoz. “We are more than willing to talk about how, or if, we respond to noncriminal and non-emergency calls so we can free up time to respond quickly to 911 calls, crackdown on violent crime, and property crime and expand our community policing efforts” added Sandoz.