Amid the growing call from activists and community groups to “defund the police,” the Los Angeles Unified School District has approved an immediate 35 percent budget cut for its law enforcement agency.
In a 4-3 vote, the L.A. County Board of Education narrowly passed the amendment to the district’s 2020-21 budget. The vote took place late Tuesday evening, following hours of public testimony by Black Lives Matter activists and parents and officers speaking in support of the school police force.
The amended budget will redirect $25 million, or 35 percent of the Los Angeles School Police Department (LASPD) funding, into hiring counselors, social workers, and other staff for programs supporting students, particularly those from the black community.
The board’s action also prohibits LASPD officers from patrolling school grounds or wearing their uniforms until a task force finishes re-examining the police department’s role in school safety sometime during the upcoming school year.
“LA Unified has to continue to be a leader in showing what can happen when we believe in self-determination, when we empower communities to help this organization transform itself,” said board member Monica Garcia, who proposed the budget cut. “And I have to say out loud, the work of Black Lives Matter, of anti-racist policies, of equity, is before us.”
LASPD Chief Todd Chamberlain argued that the budget cut means 65 officers will be immediately laid off, and his department will only be able to provide “bare minimum service.”
“It’s not going to deliver the type of community policing or the type of service that our community deserves,” Chamberlain told the board before the vote. “And it’s going to be neglectful.”
Board member George McKenna agreed with Chamberlain, saying the police budget should remain untouched until the task force completes the review.
“We all love Black children,” McKenna said. “I get it. But you’re willing to leave them unprotected.”
The budget cut comes after an attempt to reduce LASPD funding by 90 percent over the next three school years failed to pass the board largely due to safety concerns.
“If you take away police … you’re still going to have people victimized,” Chamberlain said at that time. “You’ll still have crime and still have an environment that’s not safe.”
The 470-member strong LASPD is the largest independent school police department in the United States. Its sworn police officers, civilian school safety officers, and civilian support staff members oversee all school campuses within the district and patrol the surrounding areas. The department runs on a budget of $70 million, or 1 percent, of the district’s annual budget.