Recent deaths prompt calls to expedite Unarmed Response Office
LOS ANGELES - Three City Council members sought Tuesday to expedite creation of an Office of Unarmed Response following the recent deaths of three men in encounters with Los Angeles Police Department officers.
The council asked for reports in October on creating the office, which seeks to streamline efforts to respond to non-violent situations with a services-led approach rather than armed police officers. Councilmen Marqueece Harris-Dawson and Bob Blumenfield filed a motion on Tuesday seeking to appropriate $1 million toward creating the office and hiring staff to establish the office immediately.
Councilwoman Monica Rodriguez, in a separate motion, called for the expansion of the LAPD's Mental Evaluation Unit and Domestic Abuse Response Team. The Mental Evaluation Unit is only deployed to one-third of mental health-related calls, and Domestic Abuse Response Team may not be deployed to all relevant calls because of availability, according to Rodriguez's motion.
Rodriguez requested a report on the annual number of mental health and domestic violence calls and incidents, and the capacity of both the Mental Evaluation Unit and Domestic Abuse Response Team to answer to such calls.
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Keenan Anderson, Takar Smith and Oscar Leon Sanchez have died after encounters with LAPD since Jan. 2. Anderson went into cardiac arrest and died on Jan. 3 after Los Angeles police tased and shackled him following a traffic collision.
Police fatally shot Smith on Jan. 2 and Sanchez on Jan. 3. Anderson's family took part in a briefing at City Hall earlier on Tuesday and later addressed the council calling for police reform.
"The deaths of Keenan Anderson, Oscar Leon Sanchez, and Takar Smith underscore that our work in reforming procedures, demanding accountability, and expanding deployment of unarmed response where appropriate is far from over," Rodriguez said in a statement. "This remains among the most pressing public safety issues and priority for policy and budget deliberations this year."
The Office of Unarmed Response 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.
A motion introduced in the summer of 2020 following the death of George Floyd while in Minneapolis police custody called for non-violent calls to be diverted from LAPD. The goal of O'Farrell's motion was to unite existing initiatives and implement a citywide unarmed response model.
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, according to the motion.
The office would also incorporate the various related models and pilot programs currently deployed in the city.
Blumenfield and Harris-Dawson's motion states that establishing the office immediately is critical, instructing a report within 15 days on the status of creating the office and when the city could hire three staff members for the office.