City Councilmen Mike Bonin, Marqueece Harris-Dawson and David Ryu filed a motion Wednesday to establish an Office of Violence Prevention in Los Angeles, which would dispatch public health workers to certain situations rather than uniformed police officers.
“Here in Los Angeles, we are beginning to consider creating alternatives to uniformed police officers responding to every emergency call,’` the motion stated. “Having social workers, mental health professionals, or civilian staff or volunteers may make more sense in several types of situations.”
The motion directs city staff to draft a plan to establish an office that would employ civilian teams or contract with nonprofit organizations to work within communities to create public safety plans unique to neighborhoods in Los Angeles and then implement them.
Once established, when situations of interpersonal conflicts arise, mediators, conflict interrupters and restorative justice teams could intervene — provided no one’s safety is at risk.
“This office could help reimagine public safety and prevent violence in our neighborhoods by working with residents and community stakeholders to address the main causes of violence,” Harris-Dawson said. “Our Community Safety Initiative in South LA is a successful example of this type of approach. Now is the time to invest resources into proven community-driven public safety solutions that keep neighborhoods safe.”
The motion says the city must consider what contributes to drug overdoses, mental health crises, homelessness, human trafficking, gang activity or domestic abuse. Bonin said that “too often the roots of those problems are poverty and racism.”
The motion would direct the offices of the Chief Legislative Analyst, City Administrative Officer, and “any other relevant departments” to report back to council on the feasibility of creating an Office of Violence Prevention, which could include legal considerations, funding requirements, staffing and budget effects, jurisdictional responsibilities and services that should be provided.
“Preventing violence is one of the wisest investments we can make in neighborhood safety,” Bonin said. “The city won’t need to dispatch armed, uniformed officers to respond to a 911 call if we can prevent the violence from happening in the first place.”
On Tuesday, Councilman Herb Wesson and Council President Nury Martinez introduced a motion to develop a nonviolent crisis response team that would answer certain police calls with city or county workers who are not law-enforcement officers. That motion will first be heard in the City Council’s Ad Hoc Committee of Police Reform.