Road To Reform: Los Angeles Creates Unarmed Responder Units For Nonviolent 911 Calls


Photo courtesy Los Angeles Times

On June 30th, the Los Angeles City Council approved the first step to develop a motion that would assemble unarmed first responders for nonviolent 911 calls. This proposal was introduced on June 16th by current LA City Council President Nury Martinez and former President Herb Wesson, due to calls for police reform around the country. Their systematic crisis-response plan is to replace police officers with community-based responders in non-criminal situations. Medical professionals, mental health workers, and others with specialized training would handle mental health threats, substance abuse issues, and welfare checks. The City Council will be working with the Department of Mental Health as well as other nonprofit organizations for this pilot program. Wesson, who was the first Black City Council President, called it “the dawn of a new era of public safety in Los Angeles.”

The City Council voted unanimously to move forward with this motion on October 14th– what would have been the 47th birthday of George Floyd. Floyd was a Black man who was killed back in May while in custody in Minneapolis, when a police officer knelt on his neck for nearly nine minutes. Floyd was detained after a shopkeeper called 911 on him for an alleged counterfeit 20 dollar bill. The video footage of his death sparked outrage and consequent protest throughout the country. The fight against police brutality and demand for systemic reform brought about the idea of unarmed first responders in the Los Angeles Police Department. Councilman Wesson told Fox LA that “if George Floyd had been met with unarmed, trained specialists for the nonviolent crime he was accused of, he would be turning 47 years old today…This plan will save lives.” 

On October 26th, Mayor Eric Garcetti was joined by Council leaders to approve and announce the formation of Wesson and Martinez’s plan, now named the “Therapeutic Transportation Pilot.” Set to launch in 2021, the program will provide mental health support and conflict resolution resources, prevent suicidal deaths, and allow LAPD officers to focus on potential violent 911 calls. The development of this plan will prevent nonviolent calls from escalating into life-threatening situations. The hope for the initiative is that it will save many lives and serve as a model for other districts. Mayor Garcetti and the Los Angeles City Council are leading the way toward reform.