LA tests program to send unarmed civilians instead of police officers to people in crisis

(Francine Orr/Los Angeles Times)

LA tests program to send unarmed civilians instead of police officers to people in crisis

Homepage News, LA Politics

Libor Jany

April 5, 2024

Los Angeles officials

Wants to alleviate the city’s reliance on police officers to handle nonviolent mental health emergencies

have launched a new pilot program

that sends unarmed


with training

to respond to such calls.


odeled after an announced program from Oregon,


Officials said the so-called Unarmed Model of Crisis Response has two teams of mental health practitioners


24 hours a day, seven days a week,

for situations that normally fall under the responsibility of the police, such as calls that vary from carrying out

welfare checks and

respond to calls for

Public intoxication

until and

indecent exposure.

Run the program

By the

city ​​attorney, that’s it


operating in three police divisions Devonshire, Wilshire and South East

with plans to evaluate and potentially expand performance after one year.

City officials unveiled the initiative at a press conference earlier this week.


the program ha


has been active for at least a month.

From welfare checks to non-violent mental health and drug issues, to minor health crises in encampments and elsewhere, we need more tools in our toolbox to truly help Angelenos in need,” Councilman Bob Blumenfield said in a statement. Please continue to ask our police officers to also be social workers, mental health physicians and first responders.”


The program is based on the ‘Cahoots’ model,

named after

a Eugene, Or


Nonprofits are widely considered the gold standard in mobile crisis intervention. Started in 1989, the program today handles approximately 20% of mental health calls

for the city with approximately 180,000 inhabitants

by sending teams of specialists trained in counseling and de-escalation.

The programs start

in LA

comes amid ongoing public frustration with the city’s handling of the intertwined issues of homelessness, substance abuse and mental health. The LAPD has come under increased scrutiny following a series of mental health-related shootings and other violent incidents. In 2023 alone, LAPD officers opened fire at least 19 times on people experiencing some form of behavioral crisis, according to a Times database.


Department officials have repeatedly said that despite increased training in crisis intervention and new “less lethal” weapons designed to incapacitate rather than kill people, officers are not always equipped to handle most emergency calls. mental health care. At the same time the police say:

these species

Calls can quickly turn into violence.



Chief Dominic Choi said this during a meeting of the Board of Police Commissioners in Los Angeles


the department “fully supports” the



“It takes some of the workload off us and shifts resources to the right responders,” Choi said.

He said 911 personnel are trained to route calls

to the program



no weapons or threats of violence are mentioned.


Programs have been around for years,

with new efforts emerging

since 2020, spurred by a nationwide movement to redirect law enforcement funding following the killing of George Floyd

by police

in Minneapolis.

Los Angeles was among major U.S. cities that pledged to develop and invest in new emergency response measures


trained specialists to provide assistance to the homeless and those suffering from mental health and substance abuse issues.




have had difficulty bringing

alternatives for crisis intervention

bowls. Earlier this year, the Los Angeles Fire Department recommended ending a pilot




Officials said it didn’t actually free up first responders and hospital emergency rooms.


Fire brigade

program launched in the fall of 2021 at a cost of nearly $4 million.


operated vans staffed with psychiatric mobile response teams, including

a psychiatric technician, a peer support specialist and

a driver experienced in transporting patients to and from health and mental health facilities.


In New York, officials cited staffing and training issues as reasons why a Cahoots-style pilot failed to meet its goal of diverting at least 50% of mental health calls away from police.


to argue

that such efforts remain woefully underfunded and, in the same cases, still too closely aligned with law enforcement.

Too often, city officials have undermined such alternative programs by making poor personnel choices, said Eddie Anderson, pastor at McCarty Memorial Christian Church.

in Jefferson Park

and a recent candidate for City Council. He also wondered whether officials would continue to support the effort given the city’s ongoing budget problems.

“We’re very good at funding pilot programs, but not really good at accountability measures and sustainability measures around implementation,” Anderson said.


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