Los Angeles to Fund Unarmed Policing Pilot Program

By Micaela Ricaforte
Micaela Ricaforte
Micaela Ricaforte
February 23, 2022Updated: February 24, 2022

LOS ANGELES—Los Angeles will allocate $2.3 million to “alternative” policing programs that deploy unarmed responders to areas with high gun violence in order to lower the number of violent crimes in those areas.

The Los Angeles City Council unanimously approved a motion on Feb. 23 to fund a policing pilot program that would send “alternative” unarmed responders to areas “most acutely affected by the recent surge in gun violence.” The $2.3 million will come from the city’s general fund.

Last month, the LA Police Department (LAPD) reported that deadly shootings involving LAPD officers were up over 140 percent, while homicides increased nearly 12 percent from 2020 to 2021. LAPD Chief Michel Moore said during a press conference last month that 54 percent of the city’s shootings and homicides were related to gang violence.

“Given the surge of violent crime that we’ve seen in certain parts of our city … we know that an integrated approach to community-based public safety initiatives are paramount to helping to support the work that LAPD does in these neighborhoods,” Councilwoman Monica Rodriguez, who introduced the motion last month, said on Feb. 14.

Rodriguez said the programs would be created under the mayor’s office of Gang Reduction and Youth Development, founded in 2008, which aims at preventing crime among youth through social services.

The policing programs will be modeled on existing programs, such as the CIRCLE program and a pilot partnership between the Los Angeles Fire Department and the LA County Department of Mental Health—both of which send a team of therapists and social workers to homeless- or mental health-related emergency calls.

These programs “represent two recent innovations that remove armed response from situations that do not warrant it and take therapeutic approaches to assisting people who are experiencing homelessness or dealing with a mental health crisis that results in a call to 911,” Rodriguez said in the motion.

Gang Reduction and Youth Development Director Reginald Zachary said during a committee meeting that his team will first target the areas with the highest amount of gun violence, and then later address all 23 Gang Reduction and Youth Development zones, though he didn’t specify which areas would be targeted first.

Gang Reduction and Youth Development data estimate a 36 percent decrease in gang crimes in all targeted areas from 2017 to 2018.

Rodriguez’s motion also authorizes the mayor’s office to prepare, process, and execute contracts with service providers or any other agencies or organizations to prepare the pilot programs, though the councilwoman didn’t give a timeline for the pilot programs’ creation or execution.

Councilwoman Monica Rodgriguez and a spokesperson for the Gang Reduction and Youth Development didn’t respond to requests for comment by press deadline.