LOS ANGELES (AP) - Los Angeles officials announced Monday a major expansion of the city’s community policing program that prioritizes building relationships between officers and residents in an effort to reduce crime amid a nationwide reckoning on racial injustice and police brutality.
Under the new plan, the Community Safety Partnership will go citywide and become its own bureau within the Los Angeles Police Department. The program, designed to be a departure from traditional policing, began in 2011 in four public housing developments that had high crime rates and gang problems.
Community safety officers become familiar faces in neighborhoods and focus on talking through problems while using citations and arrests as a last resort, officials said.
“This is more than a program, it’s a philosophy where we measure our officers on the relationships they build, rather than the arrests they make,” the LAPD said on Twitter.
The goal is to move the department “from a warrior mentality to a guardian mentality,” said Mayor Eric Garcetti.
“We want all officers to feel connected to the people they protect,” the mayor said.
Recently promoted Deputy Chief Emada Tingirides, a Black woman, will oversee the new bureau.
A civilian commander will oversee a regional advisory panel that will include leaders from local communities. Young people at risk of gang recruitment will be given priority, Tingirides said.
“This is about understanding the cultures of the communities and adjusting how we work and respond to conflict within communities. It’s about getting certain training for the officers, like gang intervention,” she said.
Service calls involving homelessness, substance abuse or neighbor complaints don’t always require the response of an armed officer, authorities said.
Officials have long touted the partnership’s success and a study by University of California, Los Angeles, researchers found that crime decreased in two of the original public housing developments as a result of the program.
A similar program in New York, called Neighborhood Policing was launched in 2015.
The LAPD reforms come as advocates nationwide call for cities to “defund” police departments. They want departments to reallocate part or all of law enforcement budgets to community programs that use qualified, non-police responders to deal with mental health crises, domestic disputes and other emergencies.
The defunding proposals come on the heels of the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis police custody. Floyd’s death set off protests and demonstrations nationwide that have forced communities to examine their own police departments and policies, among other changes.
Earlier this month, the Los Angeles City Council voted to reduce the LAPD’s nearly $2 billion budget by $150 million. About two-thirds of the $150 million was earmarked for police overtime and will instead be used to provide services and programs for communities of color, including a youth summer jobs program.
The move also reduces the number of officers from 9,988 as of last month to 9,757 by next summer- a level not seen for more than a decade that abandons a goal of 10,000 officers.
Garcetti in April had proposed a budget that included a 7% spending increase for the LAPD, but backed the funding cuts after Floyd’s death.
Associated Press writer Christopher Weber in Los Angeles contributed to this report.
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