Officials: L.A. police-free response teams see early success

Police Chief Michel Moore says the programs have been helpful for officers as well


By Emily Rasmussen
Los Angeles Daily News

LOS ANGELES — The Los Angeles Police Department’s alternative policing programs to help people struggling with mental illness and homelessness are growing and showing signs of success, officials said at the city’s Police Commission meeting on Tuesday, April 5.

The most recent pilot program – the Crisis and Incident Response through Community-Led Engagement program – was launched in January and includes 24-hour, seven-days-per-week crisis response teams in the Hollywood and Venice areas. The team does not include officers.

A homeless encampment in Toriumi Plaza at 1st St and Judge John Aiso St in Los Angeles Thursday, March 17, 2022.
A homeless encampment in Toriumi Plaza at 1st St and Judge John Aiso St in Los Angeles Thursday, March 17, 2022. (Hans Gutknecht, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

The team has responded to 591 diverted non-emergency calls since it began, Deputy Mayor Che Ramirez said. The calls, diverted from either the department’s emergency communication center or its non-emergency number, are primarily with the homeless community, such as noise disturbance or loitering, Ramirez said. The team also visits the communities they patrol to offer resources and build relationships, he said.

Another program that has been diverting calls from police is the Call Direction to Ensure Suicide Safety pilot program, with Didi Hirsch Mental Health Services. Since the program began in February 2021, through the end of last year 1,465 calls were diverted, according to the commission report.

The calls are meant to help stabilize the caller and can result in their getting psychiatric help.

Other programs the department has been partnering with include the Therapeutic Van Program with the Los Angeles Fire Department, which helps patients with mental health emergencies. Crisis Assistance Helping Out on the Streets involves community members responding to non-emergency calls.

The programs have been critical for keeping essential services in the city, Police chief Michel Moore said, and have been helpful to law enforcement, as well.

“It’s been needed as we are in hundreds of thousands of hours of fewer field time because of the reduction of the workforce,” he said.

[NEXT: Should law enforcement respond to mental health crisis calls?]

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