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Criminal Justice

LAPD Union Says Officers Should Not Respond To These 28 Radio Calls

An LAPD car with its emblem on the side of the driver's door with the phrase to protect and to serve.
An LAPD patrol car.
(David McNew
Getty Images North America)
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As the city of Los Angeles considers establishing an Office of Unarmed Response and Safety, the union that represents rank-and-file LAPD officers Wednesday issued a list of 28 radio calls that it says should be handled by unarmed responders, including complaints about loud parties, welfare checks, and non-criminal mental health issues.

“This would help free up officers that are responding to basically non-criminal issues,” said Debbie Thomas, a director with the Los Angeles Police Protective League. She noted the number of officers has decreased in recent years.

The number of sworn LAPD officers is 9,235 as of Feb. 14, according to Chief Michel Moore. The department at one time had more than 10,000 officers.

“We are looking at a police department that’s dwindled in size,” said union spokesman Tom Saggau. “We just absolutely do not have the people power to respond to calls that are not deemed emergencies.”

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Among the other calls the union thinks should be handled by someone other than an LAPD officer:

  • Non-criminal and/or non-violent homeless and quality-of-life related calls
  • Cleanups of encampments used by unhoused people, unless officers are requested or prescheduled
  • Non-violent juvenile disturbance or juveniles beyond parental control calls; (for example, a youngster won’t go to school)
  • Non-violent calls for service at city parks 
  • Under the influence calls (alcohol and/or drugs) where there is no other crime in progress
  • Verbal disputes involving non-injury traffic collisions, refusing to share ID at traffic collisions 
  • landlord/tenant disputes 
  • Illegal gambling

“We are not mental health workers, we are not social workers,” Thomas said. Some of these calls can be extremely time-consuming — especially loud party calls, she said. “Those eat up a lot of time.”

Police “should really be focused on just responding to emergencies, saving lives and property, and engaging in community policing,” Thomas said.

We are not mental health workers, we are not social workers.
— Debbie Thomas, director, Police Protective League

Some have called for the LAPD to no longer be involved in traffic stops, given that some minor traffic violations have led to violent encounters. The union’s list does not include traffic violations.

“DUI, red light/stop sign runners, sideshow laws should be enforced” by armed police, said Saggau. Sideshows are when people block traffic for car stunts and road racing.

The union offered its proposal to city leaders as part of its labor contract negotiations.

City Councilmember Monica Rodriguez, chair of the Public Safety Committee, said in a statement that “[e]ach year, LAPD receives thousands of calls that don’t necessitate armed response, and the absence of alternatives has put undue burden on LAPD response.”

Noting that she is “working with pertinent city departments to fund and develop alternatives,” Rodriguez said, “I have concerns about abandoning response until we have built out an alternative system and establish clear protocols and funding.”

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LAPD Chief Michel Moore said in a statement he welcomes the union’s support in highlighting “the importance of establishing an alternative non-law enforcement service response to non-emergency calls.”

The chief said alternate approaches “such as the recently established CIRCLE Program [Crisis and Incident Response through Community-Led Engagement, which diverts nonviolent 911 calls related to homelessness to unarmed responders], psychiatric therapy vans, and mental health alternatives such as the 9-88 crisis line … have already diverted thousands of calls away from a police response, allowing officers … time to focus on our most essential activities.”

Moore said the department is “committed to continue to raise awareness of the importance of alternative services.”

Mayor Karen Bass did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

An idea that’s been around for decades

The idea of ending armed police responses to certain types of 911 calls has been around for decades. It gained popularity in the wake of the police murder of George Floyd and massive protests.

Councilmembers Harris-Dawson and Bob Blumenfield have introduced a motion that calls for appropriating $1 million to “immediate[ly] create the Office of Unarmed Response and Safety.” That motion, which did not specify which calls should be handled by the office, was scheduled for debate at Wednesday’s council meeting but was postponed.

Creating the independent office would give the city a new body to coordinate unarmed teams, rather than putting them under the direction of the LAPD or another agency.

Separately, three contractors have been tentatively selected to head up an unarmed mental health crisis response pilot project, according to the City Administrative Officer. The one-year pilot is budgeted for somewhere between $7-$10 million for the fiscal year that ends June 30. The CAO’s office says it’s drafting individual contracts for the three partners and hopes to have a comprehensive report to the mayor and council soon.

This story was updated to include the statements of Councilmember Rodriguez and Chief Moore.

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