Multiple Los Angeles City Council members are exploring unarmed response options, sparked by recent high-profile critical incidents involving LAPD.
“The deaths of Keenan Anderson, Oscar Leon Sanchez, and Takar Smith underscore that our work in reforming procedures, demanding accountability, and expanding deployment of unarmed response where appropriate is far from over,” Councilwoman Monica Rodriguez said Tuesday.
Rodriguez presented a motion to expand the budget for the city’s current social response options, highlighting that 11 of the 31 police shootings in 2022 involved individuals with “perceived” mental illness.
LAPD currently deploys social services in the form of a Mental Evaluation Unit (MEU) and Domestic Abuse Response Team (DART).
Part of Rodriguez’s call to expand these services, was due to those units not being “guaranteed” to be part of a response call.
“The LAPD reports that, at present , only one-third of mental health calls receive MEU deployment,” Martinez wrote in her motion. “It is of critical importance to the safety of Angelenos that we make additional investments to match the need for the aforementioned resources.”
In the first two weeks of 2023, there were three individuals who died in police custody, two after a police shooting, and a third in the hospital after LAPD detained the man through the use of a taser.
While the latter’s cause of death has yet to be determined, local activists such as Black Lives Matter (BLM) and the People’s City Council feel the LAPD’s use of a taser on Keenan Anderson, who was a cousin of BLM cofounder Patrisse Cullors, was the cause of his death.
The incidents involving Anderson, Smith and Sanchez sparked council members to call for the formation of an Unarmed Response Office to be expedited, after the motion passed in 2022.
Councilmembers Marqueece Harris-Dawson and Bob Blumenfield filed a motion on Tuesday to allocate $1 million toward the office’s immediate formation.
“During my time here, I’ve had far too many of these types of events where we are grieving with families… who have had their family members taken because we do not respond to calls with mental health care, we respond with guns and badges and glaring lights and shouting and commands, that people may or may not be in a position to adhere to,” Harris-Dawson said at a BLM rally being held at the steps of city hall Tuesday. “Just this year, we’ve already lost three people. I will not be convinced by anybody that any of those people deserved to have their life taken.”
On January 11, LAPD released incident videos for all three men who died, with Chief Michel Moore saying the footage was expedited due to aggressive public interest. BLM leaders claimed the footage was highly edited and they have refuted the provided narratives.
Councilwoman Eunisses Hernandez was also critical of LAPD’s use of force for the incidents, calling the footage “appalling and deeply disturbing.”
“I call on my colleagues on the Council that we cannot let this moment pass us,” Hernandez said at the BLM rally Tuesday. “We must invest significantly in the resources that are going to prevent people from getting killed when they call for help.”
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