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Defend to Defund to Depolice: Los Angelinos Reconsider Armed Defense

Monday, March 6, 2023

Defend to Defund to Depolice: Los Angelinos Reconsider Armed Defense

Many municipalities being pressured by the progressive left have “defunded the police,” with activists claiming that shrinking “massive” police budgets would actually improve public safety. The Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD), for one, faced budget cuts of $150 million for 2021.

The Los Angeles Police Protective League, a union for the LAPD’s sworn officers, is now proposing that officers stop responding to almost 30 types of 911 requests for assistance, with the calls being handled by other city agencies or affiliated nonprofits. According to the League’s statement, “The Union agrees to cease providing a sworn police response to the calls listed … The Union will work with the City/LAPD to implement safe protocols if an armed LAPD response becomes necessary after the initial non-sworn response has been deployed.” The union’s proposal is expected to go before the city’s Executive Employee Relations Committee at some point in the future.

The types of calls that are up for “depolicing” include non-criminal mental health calls, non-violent juvenile disturbances, calls to schools (except calls by school administrators for an emergency police response or about mandatory reporting), loitering/trespassing “with no indication of danger,” “Code 30” alarm calls (alarms reported by an alarm company) other than robbery silent alarms, “under the influence” calls (alcohol/drugs) with no other crime in progress, vicious and dangerous dog complaints where no attack is occurring, “927-D [dead body] where no indication of foul play,” and others.

It may well be that other listed calls (“driveway tows,” “abandoned vehicles,” “syringe disposal,” “public health order violations,” and trash dumping) are indeed more appropriately handled by code enforcement, waste management, the health department, or similar municipal agencies.

But when dead human bodies (for example) do not prompt a police response, citizens have reason for alarm. And resorting to police only when an armed response is imminently required is not likely to result in police officers who are trained and predisposed to provide the calming, de-escalating presence that many activists and “reformers” claim to want from law enforcement.

The reason cited by the union for the stepped-down police response is the “long-term, chronic understaffing” of the LAPD, leading to the need to prioritize police resources and improve officer morale. According to the Los Angeles Times, the LAPD has lost approximately 800 officers since 2020. Another factor affecting policing efforts may be the “carefree attitude toward prosecuting crime” of Los Angeles County District Attorney George Gascón, who took office in late 2020 and “has led the growing movement of progressive prosecutors.”

The department’s most recent “Public Contacts Snapshot” (as of Jan. 31, 2023) shows that the number of LAPD public contacts (stops and calls) has declined by almost five percent between January 2022 and January 2023; when compared to the five-year, year–to-date average, contacts are down by 26.8 percent. Likewise, LAPD arrests have decreased by three percent between 2022 and 2023, and by over 32 percent when compared to the five-year average.      

A resident the LA Times quoted on the union’s proposal indicated she was open to the idea but had questions about how 911 calls would be handled going forward. “Who will be responding? And who are they responsible to? Will they be fully trained for what will come up and do they have experience? …We just want to make sure that whoever is going to be answering those calls is fully prepared for what they might find and how to deal with it.”

Those, of course, are the critical questions. Even trained police officers responding to a 911 call don’t know what’s going to happen after they arrive and can’t predict whether a welfare check, a “non-criminal mental health” crisis, juvenile disturbance, or a substance abuse situation will suddenly escalate and turn violent.

Los Angelinos already dismayed about rising crime, laissez faire prosecutors, and the depressing statistic that criminals committing a murder now have about an even chance of getting away with it, can add the possibility that an unarmed, nonprofit activist may be their first responder to a 911 call.

Facing these unpleasant realities, residents of La-La Land are re-examining their options. Many who have the means to abandon Los Angeles have already done so. For those who remain, however, the Second Amendment has started to take on renewed relevance.

Business last year was already “booming” at the only gun store in Beverly Hills. “This morning I sold six shotguns in about an hour to people that say, ‘I want a home defense shotgun,’” said owner Russell Stuart. In an interview, Stuart indicated that many of his customers are people who “have said their entire lives that ‘I was afraid of guns, that I would never own a gun,’ and probably wouldn’t even advocate for that ownership,” but have definitely changed their mind. In a related development, Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva said concealed carry permit applications are on the rise and predicted that his office could issue as many as 50,000 permits now that the United States Supreme Court has struck down “good cause/special need” licensing requirements.  

The consequences of this latest stage in law enforcement are anyone’s guess. The old saying – that when seconds count, the police are only minutes away – may be relegated to a fond recollection, rather than a grim joke, when “a non-sworn response has been deployed” to emergency calls.

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