A new city office could be formed to help communities in Los Angeles respond to crises before they escalate, and disrupt and prevent violence before it starts, thanks to legislation proposed on June 17 by City Councilmen David Ryu, 4th District, Mike Bonin, 11th District, and Marqueece Harris-Dawson, 8th District.
The legislation directs city staff to begin the work to establish an Office of Violence Prevention that would employ civilian teams or contract with a nonprofit organization to work within communities to create public safety plans unique to neighborhoods in L.A. and then implement them. Once established, when situations of interpersonal conflicts arise, mediators, conflict interrupters and restorative justice teams could intervene if no one’s safety is at risk.
“We should not send a police officer to do a counselor’s job,” Ryu said. “And we do not solve issues of poverty, inequity and systemic racism with law enforcement. An Office of Violence Prevention would work to address these issues at the root, relying less on law enforcement and more on community empowerment, social services and restorative justice. Communities should decide what makes them safe and the resources they need to get there.”
As communities across the country are reimagining what public safety looks like, many are looking at public safety through the lens of public health. Los Angeles is beginning to consider creating alternatives to uniformed police officers responding to every emergency call and having social workers, mental health professionals, or civilian staff or volunteers respond instead in nonviolent situations.
In a motion introduced on June 16, Council President Nury Martinez, 6th District, and Councilmen Herb J. Wesson Jr, 10th District, Curren Price, 9th District, Bob Blumenfield, 3rd District, and Harris-Dawson requested the city begin studying how L.A. could replace LAPD officers with unarmed, non-law enforcement agencies who will be responsible for responding to nonviolent calls for service. An Office of Violence Prevention is a parallel strategy to engage neighborhoods in developing their own public safety plans and working on addressing the needs in their own communities before violence starts.
The legislation by Bonin, Harris-Dawson and Ryu asks city staff to work with advocacy organizations and experts in the field of crisis response, and then to report back to the City Council on models, examples and best practices for the development and implementation of violence prevention and community intervention strategies. The legislation also asks for the city to explore examples such as those in Minneapolis and Washington, D.C., and to include in their report a discussion of applying such models to the unique needs of Los Angeles. The report will also include options and opportunities for the city to partner with the county, foundations and nonprofit organizations in the community.
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