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Union: Understaffed LAPD needs to stop responding to some non-emergency calls

Los Angeles Police Protective League says armed response not needed for most welfare checks, illegal fireworks, noisy parties and drinking in public

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Los Angeles Police Protective League/Twitter

By David Zahniser
Los Angeles Times

LOS ANGELES — The Los Angeles Police Department’s largest employee union is looking to have officers stop responding to more than two dozen types of calls, transferring those duties to other city agencies while focusing on more serious crimes.

As part of its upcoming contract talks, the Los Angeles Police Protective League intends to tell city negotiators that it is willing to let other city departments or nonprofit agencies respond to calls about panhandling, illegal sidewalk vending, urinating in public, mental health episodes in which there is no threat of violence or criminal activity, and dangerous dog complaints in which “no attack is in progress.”

Such a shift would free up officers to focus more on violent crime, solve more cases and improve officer morale, the union said.

“Police officers are sent to too many calls that are better suited for unarmed service providers,” said Craig Lally, the union’s president, in a statement Tuesday.

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A representative of Mayor Karen Bass did not immediately provide comment on the proposal. But Councilmember Tim McOsker, who sits on the city’s powerful bargaining committee, said he looks forward to working with the union on the city’s program of “unarmed response.”

“On this list are calls for service that reasonably and safely don’t require an armed officer,” said McOsker, an attorney who represented the LAPD union for several years.

The proposal coincides with efforts by some council members to shift certain duties away from the LAPD, including traffic enforcement and nonviolent mental health calls. Two of the council’s newer members called last year for the city to shift money out of the department and into other social services.

The league has argued for months that the department is understaffed, having lost about 800 officers since the outbreak of COVID-19 in 2020. In its proposal, the union acknowledged that “certain types of calls for service may not necessitate an armed response.”

As a result, the union is willing to stop having LAPD officers head out to homeless encampment cleanups, unless a deployment request is made by a city agency. Officers would stop making most “welfare checks” at the public’s request. And they would no longer tackle certain quality-of-life calls, such as illegal dumping, illegal fireworks, noisy parties and drinking in public.

The council is looking to put $1 million into an Office of Unarmed Response and Safety. Bass, on the campaign trail, promised to create a public safety office that would not involve the LAPD.

Still, the union also signaled it is not willing to give up certain duties. Although the league spoke in favor of having other agencies respond to non-injury traffic accidents, it intends to retain traffic enforcement assignments overall, citing the city’s growing number of deaths involving cars, bicyclists and pedestrians.

Some of the calls listed in the union’s proposal are largely the purview of the Department of Transportation, including illegally parked cars and abandoned vehicles.

The union’s proposal would need to go before the city’s Executive Employee Relations Committee, which is made up of the mayor and four council members: Paul Krekorian, Curren Price, Bob Blumenfield and McOsker. Any employment contract would ultimately require City Council approval.

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