Los Angeles voted on Wednesday to cut the city’s police budget by $150mn, acceding in part to demands made during last month’s anti-racism protests sparked by the death of George Floyd.
The measure was passed in a 12-2 vote by the city council, with much of the money to be diverted to minority areas of Los Angeles.
“This is a step forward, supporting minority communities in ways in which they deserve – with respect, dignity and an even playing field,” said Curren Price, the sole black member on the council’s budget committee.
The cut will see the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) fall below 10,000 officers next summer, to its lowest level since 2008, the Los Angeles Times reported.
The city has 4mn residents.
Before the measure, the LAPD budget had been steadily growing for years to reach $1.86bn, out of the city’s total $10.5bn budget.
Black Lives Matter (BLM) protests swept Los Angeles and the nation following African American Floyd’s death under the knee of a white police officer in Minneapolis in May.
Organisers demanded the LAPD be “defunded” far beyond the scope of Wednesday’s cut.
“I want to take this time to acknowledge Black Lives Matter-LA organisers and others for keeping our feet to the fire and demanding more from our government,” said Price.
On Tuesday New York lawmakers also approved a budget that purports to slash $1bn from the city’s much larger police force.
The LAPD cut comes as Los Angeles faces a massive budget deficit following the coronavirus lockdown.
Meanwhile, the Los Angeles board of education has also slashed funding for the police department that patrols the nation’s second-largest school district, joining other US school systems that have made similar reforms after Floyd’s death.
The board, which oversees 600,000 students, voted 4-3 on Tuesday night to cut the budget of the Los Angeles Schools Police Department (LASPD) by $25mn, a 35% reduction, and use the money to pay for staff who serve the needs of black students and a task force to examine school safety.
The board did not announce any lay-offs, but it ordered the department’s 460 officers to stay off campuses and not to wear their uniforms until the agency’s role in the schools can be fully assessed.
“The school board’s action is a huge first step in the campaign for police-free schools and ground-breaking in terms of our movement for supporting black lives in our schools,” said United Teachers Los Angeles President Cecily Myart-Cruz in a statement.
School systems in several major cities including Oakland, Minneapolis and Denver have removed police and school resource officers from campuses and have made other policing changes as part of a nationwide push for law enforcement reform following Floyd’s death in police custody.
The teachers’ union and several local civic and school organisations had demanded the board make wholesale reforms to its policing strategy.
Proponents have cited a University of California, Los Angeles study that showed LASPD police officers disproportionately detain and cite black students.
Defenders of police in schools say officers are specially trained to de-escalate tensions and to protect campuses from outside threats, such as mass shootings.
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