The Los Angeles Police Department’s rank-and-file union is proposing that someone other than police respond to more than two dozen types of 911 calls in a bid to transfer officers’ workload to more serious crimes, reports the Associated Press. The change is aimed at limiting situations where armed police officers are the first to respond. The proposal announced Wednesday by the Los Angeles Police Protective League lists 28 kinds of 911 calls to which other city agencies or nonprofit organizations would be sent first. The calls range from mental health situations, quality-of-life, and homeless issues, problems at schools, and welfare checks, to certain non-fatal traffic collisions, parking violations, trash dumping, loud parties, public intoxication, and panhandling. The league said officers would respond if the situation becomes violent or criminal, but only after the initial call goes to another agency or an affiliated nonprofit. “Police officers are not psychologists. We are not psychiatrists. We are not mental health experts. We are not social workers, doctors, nurses or waste management experts,” said Debbie Thomas, a union director. “I do believe that many people think we should be all those things but we are not. We should be focused on responding to emergencies, saving lives (and) property, and of course, engaging in community policing.”
Police Chief Michel Moore welcomed the union’s push for “an alternative non-law enforcement service response to non-emergency calls.” Moore said the department has worked with elected officials to establish a support network of resources including mobile therapy vans and a mental health crisis phone line. “These emerging alternatives have already diverted thousands of calls away from a police response, allowing officers to time to focus on our most essential activities,” Moore said. The changes came amid a closer look at law enforcement after George Floyd’s killing by Minneapolis police in 2020. That included looking at how police handle mental health and other calls that don’t include violence or criminality. The Los Angeles proposal comes during the union’s contract negotiations with the city and amid activists’ pleas for reducing or eliminating armed responses to certain situations. The City Council and the mayor’s office will be involved in the final decision, the union said.