Creating A New Vision for Park Safety

LOS ANGELES COUNTY –Today, As one of the largest public park systems in the nation that provides critical access to green space for millions of residents, the Board of Supervisors has taken steps to implement a community-informed public safety strategy for County Parks in the face of Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department (LASD) budget curtailments. This unanimously approved motion aims to prioritize a more equitable, safety-focused, anti-racist framework to reducing the harm caused by an over-reliance on law enforcement in our parks, and makes further investments in alternative crisis response and violence prevention strategies.

“Investing in parks, and the programming that occurs within these spaces, must be a critical part of our approach to promoting an anti-racist and more equitable Los Angeles County. However, we must also acknowledge that these spaces and services will only improve the quality of life for our residents if they are delivered in a safe and trauma-informed manner,” said Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas “Given the Sheriff’s recent decision to curtail the Parks Services Bureau entirely, there is an immediate need to put a holistic and community-informed strategy in place so our parks can remain safe spaces for the community.”

Authored by Supervisors Ridley-Thomas and Janice Hahn, the motion authorizes the Acting Chief Executive Officer (CEO) and the Director of the Department of Parks and Recreation (DPR) to address the resulting gap in public safety services caused by Sheriff Villanueva’s threat to close the Parks Services Bureau, and report back with alternative solutions, including the implementation of alternative crisis response staffing.

“Public safety is our priority, and it is our job to make sure that our parks stay safe for everyone,” said Supervisor Janice Hahn. “But public safety looks different for different people. I look forward to seeing the options provided in this report back.”

“The Chief Executive Office is working closely with our departmental partners to make sure our residents can safely enjoy their parks,” said Acting Chief Executive Officer, Fesia Davenport. “These are treasured green spaces where residents can enjoy recreation and nature, and we are committed to developing innovative short- and long-term approaches to ensure that residents’ quality of life is maintained and enhanced.”

“Parks make life better – but they can only do so if they are safe spaces – and we are committed to working with the families and stakeholders we serve to make sure that we continue to evolve and strengthen our strategies for community-focused policing strategies to ensure that is the case,” said Norma Edith García-González, Director of County of Los Angeles Department of Parks and Recreation.

“Parks are supposed to be spaces of safety and recreation and yet our communities are often on edge because of Sheriff presence and violence that occurs in our neighborhoods, including our local parks,” said Mark-Anthony Johnson, Founder of Frontline Wellness Network. “Moving resources out of the Sheriff’s budget and into the community will ensure that we protect our parks as safe havens for services while building our ability to respond to crisis and harm with strategies that build community and affirm life.”

Since 2009, LASD has provided community policing through its Parks Services Bureau. However, recently, the Sheriff has threatened to eliminate the program entirely and reallocate funds elsewhere despite the Board’s action to fund the budgetary gap. As a result, the Board is also calling for appropriate fiscal safeguards to be instituted to ensure that any funds provided to LASD to fund park services, be used for the intended purpose.