Los Angeles Police Department Headquarters. | Photo by John Schreiber/My News LA

LOS Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti announced that he was not going forward with his plan to increase the Los Angeles Police Department budget for the 2020-21 fiscal year.

“We need to make sure that black Americans see an end to the days of murder in broad daylight and of traffic stops simply because of the color of their skin,” said Garcetti on Wednesday, June 3.

Garcetti added that he was also looking to cut another $250 million within the police and other city departments, and redirect the funds towards addressing education and health issues in black communities.

This would mean cuts from the LAPD of $100 million to $150 million, a range Council President Nury Martinez and Councilmembers Herb Wessen and Curren Price also proposed on Wednesday.

“While a complete overhaul of the city’s budget will take time, we can begin to slowly dismantle those systems that are designed to harm people of color,” said Martinez. “A preliminary cut to the LAPD budget will not solve everything, but it’s a step in the right direction.”

Garcetti’s initial budget proposal, introduced in April, included an increase of about $122 million from last year’s LAPD annual budget of $1.189 billion to $1.86 billion for 2020-21.

The plan also involved allocating a 7% spending increase for the LAPD and nearly $41 million in bonuses and raises for rank-and-file officers.

Looking at the city’s “unrestricted” general fund revenue, 53.8% percent under the mayor’s initial proposal was for police. The remaining was shared between fire, public works, parks and recreation, libraries, the city attorney, and “other.”

“We need to make a firm commitment to change, not just with words but with action,” said Garcetti.

Calls to ‘defund police’
The budget adjustments came as protests over the death of George Floyd, who died at the hands of four Minneapolis police officers, continued into day six. Garcetti described the protests as a “movement to change who we are in America when it comes to black Americans and our criminal justice system.”

Accompanying the protests demanding justice for Floyd and many other black men and women killed by police, were messages asking local governments around the U.S. to “defund police” and instead put funds towards creating well-resourced communities.

One hashtag widely used online and written on signs by advocates reads “#CareNotCops.”

As an alternative to Garcetti’s proposed budget, Black Lives Matter and other organizations have released what they call a “People’s Budget.” The budget proposes the majority of the city’s budget go largely to “universal aid and crisis management,” which covers affordable housing, homelessness services, public health, and emergency response.

Large portions of funding under the People’s Budget would also go to improving community environments and reimagining community safety. Only 5.73% of the city’s budget would go to law enforcement and policing.

As the website for the People’s Budget explains, “More spending on policing means fewer resources available for other public safety strategies that are better for communities.”

The demand to defund the police department has been met with concerns, mainly that police are needed to control instances of vandalism and looting.

The Los Angeles Police Protective League, the city’s police union, called the People’s Budget “irresponsible” and said that reducing funding for police would leave communities vulnerable to crime.

“The quickest way to make our neighborhoods more dangerous is to recklessly eliminate police officers as advocated for by proponents of the so-called ‘People’s budget,’” the union wrote in a statement. “Their ‘budget’ will guarantee that the last several nights of mayhem in Los Angeles will be new normal.”

In response to proposals to replace roughly 9,000 of the approximate 10,000 current LAPD officers with professionals in mental health, tenants’ rights, and gang intervention, the police union said the replacements would be “a dream come true for gang members and criminals and would expose every single neighborhood in Los Angeles to an unprecedented level of crime.

Proponents for the People’s Budget say that more police can actually lead to distrust of police and more crime.

Other changes mentioned by Garcetti included requiring officers to intervene in instances of inappropriate or excessive use of force.

Police Commission President Eileen Decker said that the commission would also be putting a halt on adding names into the state’s CalGang database that tracks individuals possibly affiliated with gangs. In January, the LAPD was alleged to have entered a teenager into the database despite him having no gang affiliations. The case is currently under investigation.

The Los Angeles Times reported that the LAPD puts more people into the CalGang system than any other law enforcement agency in California. In 2018, that was 20,583 names or 20% of the names in the statewide database.

Garcetti also announced plans of organizing a Department of Civil and Human Rights.
“We need to keep moving toward a new model of peace office. Of a guardian-based system. And invest long before any criminal activity ever comes,” said Garcetti.

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