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BLM Leader: If A Youth Worker Was Called Instead of LAPD, 14-Year-Old Jesse Romero Would Have Made It To High School

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Melina Abdullah from Black Lives Matter addresses the crowd during a demonstration to ask for the removal of DA Jackie Lacey in front of the Hall of Justice in Los Angeles on June 17, 2020. (Valerie Macon / AFP via Getty Images)
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Black Lives Matter L.A. Co-Founder Melina Abdullah spoke with AirTalk's Larry Mantle about the organization's policy goals, how she thinks the protests can actually change public opinion on policing, and how defunding the police would actually play out in Los Angeles.

At one point, Mantle asked Abdullah what she would say to those who are worried about how violent crime would be handled if we cut approximately 10,000 LAPD officers down to 900 (as the People's Budget suggests).

Here's what she had to say:

So it's important that as we say "defund the police," we understand that it's coupled with a reimagining of public safety. So if listeners are to think about why they or why their neighbors might call the police, we can say that the vast majority of the time, we're not looking for a police response. Most calls -- and the police admit this-- are issues like the neighbors playing the music too loud. Or there's someone who might be having a mental health issue.

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Those should not [require] police responses. If someone is having a mental health issue, we want a team of mental health workers who can go provide support. If your neighbor is playing music too loud, what we want to encourage is the building of community to the point where you can knock on the door of your neighbor and say "Hey, my child is trying to sleep. Do you mind turning down the music?" When you do that, your reliance on the police becomes much less [necessary].

Mantle followed up by asking Abdullah if she is concerned about the safety of the non-armed social workers or mental health professionals who would (in this scenario) go out to intervene in neighbor disputes or domestic problems. Here is her response:

I am not as concerned about that as I am about the violence inflicted on people by police. As a Black woman and a Black mother of three children, I'm very concerned that police are being used to monitor my children's comings and goings, that police are inside my children's schools, that when my daughter was 11 years old, police were called on her in school because she had a "look in her eyes."

So I'm much more concerned about the harm and the violence that has been meted out and has been meted out on Black community members at the hands of police than I am about the possiblility of maybe something happening when a social worker is doing a wellness check because someone's door is left ajar. I'm thinking about Tatiana Jefferson.

Or when a mental health worker comes to talk with a Grechario Mack inside of Crenshaw Baldwin Hills mall. If we think about how that could have saved Grechario's life, or saved Redel Jones' life, if a youth worker had been called out instead of LAPD, if Jesse Romero was tagging, that 14-year-old might have made it to high school."

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LISTEN TO THE FULL INTERVIEW BELOW:

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