The City Council unanimously approved $1 million Wednesday to fund and create the Office of Unarmed Response and Safety, which council members said is necessary to expand the 9-8-8 suicide and crisis hotline to include an unarmed crisis response.
According to a motion by Council members Bob Blumenfield, Marqueece Harris-Dawson and Eunisses Hernandez, the new office will require at least three staff members to solely focus on the expansion of the city’s Crisis and Incident Response Community-Led Engagement program and unarmed crisis response teams.
“I know we are excited and want to have a robust network of alternative responders,”’ Blumenfield said. “We know that when someone calls 911 at a time of crisis, the live-saving impact is about who responds and with what resources they have to respond to.”
The Office of Unarmed Response and Safety will require a principle project coordinator to oversee the work of two senior project coordinators or management analysts, with one position focused on data collection and analysis, according to the motion.
While the council moved to create the Office of Unarmed Response and Safety, recommendations will be forthcoming about who will fill the three positions.
“We’ve had some good deployment models for a long time and we are growing our unarmed response,” Blumenfield said. “As we scale our network or alternative responses, we often need to provide the infrastructure and support to make sure that these initiatives expand across our city.”
In early January, following the deaths of three men in encounters with LAPD officers since the new year, three council members sought to expedite creation of the office, which was initially brought forward by then-Councilman Mitch O’Farrell in October. O’Farrell sought to build on previous council plans to create unarmed crisis-response models.
According to O’Farrell’s motion, the office would ensure around-the-clock coordination and deployment of unarmed response specialists to non-violent calls for service, as well as collaboration with 911 dispatchers, and seek to address barriers for serving high-need communities by improving coordination between agencies.
The office would also incorporate the various related models and pilot programs currently deployed in the city.
Earlier this month, the Los Angeles Police Protective League — the union representing LAPD officers — threw its support behind the unarmed response model, identifying 28 types of emergency calls that could be diverted away from armed LAPD officers. The union’s list included non-violent calls related to homelessness and mental health; non-fatal vehicle accidents; welfare checks; calls to schools unless school administration initiates a call for emergency police response; calls involving alcohol or drugs when no other crime is in progress; homeless encampment clean-ups; and parking violations.