An op-ed in the Los Angeles Times over the weekend by Jon Wiener looked back at the Los Angeles beach community of Venice attempting to secede from the City of Los Angeles 50 years ago over LAPD actions that secession organizers said terrorized the community. The article rekindled a thought I had when the movement to defund or abolish police gained traction in LA, a thought opposite the Venice experience. I wondered if parts of Los Angeles will revive efforts to secede from the city because residents feel moves to reduce an LAPD presence will endanger their safety.
Wiener’s piece praises the so-called People’s Budget which is a vehicle to greatly dismember the LAPD. Not so long ago, one of the chief planks in the San Fernando Valley succession movement was lack of police protection in the Valley. If police resources are cut drastically, the San Fernando Valley secession movement could experience a revival of sorts.
Enough signatures were gathered to qualify the secession for the 2002 ballot. Ultimately, the standard for a successful parting of the ways between the Valley and the City of Los Angeles required majority votes in both the San Fernando Valley and the City as a whole. While Valley residents supported secession with 50.7% of the vote, overall the measure was defeated citywide, 67% to 33%.
The issues around secession had to do with the Valley’s fair share of government services, especially in proportion to the taxes Valley businesses and citizens paid. But a key matter was whether the Valley received proper policing.
At the time, the Los Angeles Police Department had about 10,000 officers. While the San Fernando Valley comprised 35% of the city’s population, only 1,800 officers, or about 18%, were assigned to the Valley. Police response times in the Valley were slower than other parts of the city.
Ironically, sworn police officers in the LAPD today are about the same number as were in the department nearly 20 years ago. But the new city budget, which takes a chunk out of police department funding as a reaction to the defund the police movement, is expected to drop the number of officers in the force to about 9750 next year. What will that mean to the Valley police numbers?
2020 is not 2002 and there is no groundswell for Valley secession as there was 20 years ago. However, the cut in the police budget and resulting concerns over safety issues could begin stirring the pot of discontent in an area of the city that has a long-time stormy relationship with downtown Los Angeles.
(Disclosure: I served as a consultant to the 2002 secession campaign.)