Last week the Los Angeles Police Department laid out plans to deal with a smaller budget forced on the LAPD in part by a $150 million cut as a result of the police reform movement. The risks of changes in policing strategies will be measured against citizens’ safety. While it’s too early to judge the consequences, the concerns for safety are real.
LAPD Chief Michael Moore announced cuts in air support, robbery homicide and gang and narcotics divisions. Additionally, desk hours at police stations would be reduced, manned only during weekday hours. The police will stop investigating automobile accidents with minor injuries involved and will require accident reports to be filed online. Perhaps, most significantly, the LAPD sworn officer core will be reduced from 10,110 to 9,752. Having 10,000 officers was a goal for the police and many past mayoral administrations.
The obvious question is will people feel safe?
Already, in this period of pandemic that had raised tensions and thrown people out of work the homicide rate in Los Angeles has jumped up. With a 25% increase in homicides, the city is on track to record 300 homicide deaths for the first time in over ten years.
Police officer representatives are painting a dire outcome for the cuts to public safety. Craig Lally, president of the Police Protective League, told the Los Angeles Times that the new proposals and cutbacks will be a “catastrophe for the safety” of citizens.
The LAPD hopes to have certain services such as responding to traffic accidents or to minor incidents managed by other city departments. So far, however, that transfer of responsibility has been elusive.
One positive section of the LAPD that was protected from budget cuts was the newly installed Community Safety Partnership program. As I wrote about the program earlier this year, the Community Safety Partnership is designed to change the culture of policing, particularly in inner cities, so as to cultivate contact between police and residents so that the community members would be more inclined to talk to the police to help solve crimes.
A report from UCLA showed good progress with the program and undercutting it at this stage would be a big mistake.
As to the cuts made to the police, we will have to wait for results and consequences. Experts say that the indications will come within communities of color which would be disproportionately affected by an upsurge in crime. Ironically, polls have indicated that members of these communities do not want to see a reduction of police in their neighborhoods.
How do citizens see all this change in policing policies coming down? The dramatic increase in gun sales for self-protection is one indicator that can’t be ignored.