In the last few years, the nation has seen countless police brutality situations on replay in the media, with many of these instances becoming fatal for civilians. Lives were lost at the hands of police, and many ruled “justifiable.” But citizen watch groups and activists have criticized cops as being either trigger-happy, racist, or undertrained to deal with the high-pressure situations or civilians’ mental state.
Many wonder if more officers are needed. But what would be the side effects of less police presence?
At the height of the 2020 racial reckoning, many civilian groups, state officials, communities, and citizens across the country demanded police forces be defunded. In some cities and states, people asked for the total disbandment of police forces.
This course quickly drew a line in the sand between the police force and the people they swore to serve and protect. But how can you help people who don’t see or value your purpose in the community?
Defunding the police
California, especially in Los Angeles, was one of the hotbeds when it came to leading the discussion for defunding their police force, as their budget for 2020-2021 was $1.86 billion. Some saw the budget as excessive, with others questioning where the money was going, as many deemed officers unfit to handle civil situations or ones involving people with mental illness.
After many protests and council meetings, city officials decided to defund the police in 2021 by $150 million. The police budget ended up equaling $1.65 billion, with most of the money being poured into helping communities of color and spread out to different organizations supporting the homeless.
Many people saw this as a victory, while others saw it as a winless situation. After the budget cuts, the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) decreased from 10,000 to 9,706 officers. Then -Mayor Eric Garcetti also proposed to furlough 15,000 civilian employees because of the budget cuts, which caused concerns for civilian workers as some work with mental illness patients.
LAPD Chief Michel Moore also expressed the same concerns over the dip in officer personnel.
“We need to make sure that we are not discouraging that next generation of cops and keeping them from leaving this agency because of the animus that is out there,” Moore said as he talked about the impact of the racial reckoning was having on his officers.
“It’s been a tough year emotionally for our people,” he added. “We know that in their families, they’re questioning being here, or is this the right agency to continue (in) this profession? This is absolutely a strategic concern for us.”
Moore’s leadership and actions have been questioned by civil groups and city officials during the racial reckoning. This has led Mayor Karen Bass to delay voting on reappointing a new LAPD Chief. Moore requested the police commission for a second term, citing, “More work needs to be done.”
The shortage begins
During that same time frame, Moore also noted a dip in Black and women officers as many of them were leaving law enforcement.
“They’re frustrated. They’re tired. They’re feeling fatigued, and they’re saying they’re looking for options outside the profession.” Moore said.
A year later, things have not improved as the vacancies in the police department have increased, and the lack of staff is causing LAPD to get desperate.
Former LA County Sheriff Alex Villanueva said the staff shortages at that department are getting critical, with 783 vacancies.
“At some point, I ran out of people,” said the sheriff during a news conference last spring. “We’re at that point that we’ve run out of people.”
Villanueva stated that personnel departments are operating at 70%, which also caused longer response times to police calls, which were usually three minutes.
“It’s going to change. That three is going to become four, it’s going to become five, in the high desert, it might become instead of 10 minutes for a Code 3, it might become 20,” explained Villanueva.
Villanueva assumed that the police shortage contributed to a high crime rate. But civilians also feel uneasy and neglected because they have no one to turn to handle law enforcement matters.
One civilian recently reported that she felt the effects of the shortage, receiving little to no aid in her civil property dispute regarding her business’ parking lot.
Civilian feels neglected
The dispute started once an adjacent property owner in the shared parcel lot decided to lock the parking lot gate to prevent people from parking cars there. The business owner quickly informed the business owner that she was not permitted to lock the gate as she doesn’t have full possession of it. The disagreement continued over the next few weeks, with the gate being locked and then cut open.
The business owner went to the police station shortly after to report the first incident and find out her rights and how to proceed legally with her dilemma.
“I went to 77th South Bureau, where I was shocked to see five people out front and a note on the door that said ‘knock and somebody will come to see you.’ After about 30 minutes of waiting in the cold, nobody came to the door, which prompted me to visit the Southwest station for aid.”
The business owner notes that when she visited the Southwest station, a sign was posted with a phone number to call the desk officer. She called and left a voicemail and waited for 30 minutes. That was on Dec. 13. She still had not received a call back from the station by press time.
She visited the 77th station two days after her first visit, where she finally saw an officer who was at the door.
“I saw the officer speaking to a resident, and as I approached the building, he ended the conversation and proceeded to close the door even though he had seen me coming,” She said. “I ran to catch him. He spoke to me at the door; I asked if I could come inside, to which he winced, but did let me in.”
“I asked if the doors were closed due to the defunding of police, and he said no, that they are understaffed,” she added.
Shortfall leads to untrained officers
After calling 911 because cars were being towed off the lot, officers arrived, but the business owner quickly realized how little help they would provide.
“Once the cops arrived, they immediately told me there is not much they can do because the adjacent property owner showed them her deed completely disregarding my recorded amendment to the deed over the lot,” she said. After a back and forth with the policemen over who owns the lot, the officers conceded and told the owner, it was “over their pay grade,” this response forced her to ask for a supervisor, who merely reiterated the same.
OurWeekly made several phone calls to the LAPD and at press time, representatives from the 77th and Southwest precincts have yet to call back with a statement about the LAPD’s lack of accessibility to the public.
An email was received from the mayor’s office:
“I believe that the number one job of the mayor is to keep Angelenos safe. I also know that the needs of each community are different, which is why we will work together to ensure that every neighborhood in Los Angeles is receiving enough resources and assistance to feel safe,” Mayor Karen Bass said.