City Council Approves Motion to Create Citywide Office of Unarmed Response and Safety

Motion builds on previous unarmed crisis response efforts, including CIRCLE, which O’Farrell is moving to expand in the 13th District

LOS ANGELES – The Los Angeles City Council today unanimously approved a motion that calls for the creation of a citywide Office of Unarmed Response and Safety.

The motion – co-introduced by Council President Pro Tempore Mitch O’Farrell, Chair of Public Safety Councilwoman Monica Rodriguez, Council President Nury Martinez, Councilmembers Kevin de León, Bob Blumenfield and Curren Price, and seconded by Councilmember Nithya Raman – intends to streamline various recent efforts that redirect non-violent calls for service through the 911 emergency system, most often related to people experiencing homelessness who are in distress, away from an armed police response, instead sending trained service providers to directly assist people with resources and case management, including services related to mental health, substance abuse, addiction, and conflict resolution.

The motion adopted today will unite existing Council initiatives toward unarmed response, including CIRCLE (Crisis and Incident Response through Community-Led Engagement) and the Therapeutic Van Pilot Program, as the City moves toward a more comprehensive and holistic approach to public safety. The CIRCLE pilot, which began in January 2022 with operations in Hollywood and Venice, has shown promising initial returns, including more than 20,000 positive, proactive engagements in Hollywood between January and April. In response, the City Council in June increased its annual budget from $3 million to $8 million and expanded operations to Downtown, South Los Angeles, and parts of the Valley.

“The motion we approved today will streamline the various innovative approaches to public safety, including the CIRCLE program we are pioneering in my district,” said Council President Pro Tempore O’Farrell. “I am confident in our collective ability to improve upon the public safety model in Los Angeles – to focus law enforcement where they are best suited, and to treat mental health and substance abuse issues with the skill and response that is most appropriate.

“The expansion of these unarmed response models calls for increased oversight, accountability and coordination to ensure consistent deployment citywide while maximizing our first responders to remain available for the emergency response they were trained to do,” said Councilwoman Rodriguez.  “From a public safety and budgetary perspective, we must do better to align our resources to address the multifaceted challenges affecting our neighborhoods while improving response and deployment.”

“Since the summer of 2020, this Council has been focused, thoughtful and dedicated to the long-term goal of an unarmed crisis response program within the City of Los Angeles,” said Council President Martinez. “In order to ensure this success, we need to coordinate our existing efforts and services. By creating this office, we can ensure that all crisis response efforts can collaboratively deliver Angelenos the services they need so that we can become a safer Los Angeles for all.”

“What is clear is that Los Angeles relies on law enforcement too often to engage in matters that could more reasonably be directed to unarmed, non-law enforcement entities,” said Councilmember de León. “An unarmed response offers us an opportunity to implement positive changes in communities by utilizing engagement teams better equipped to manage encounters with unhoused Angelenos and other non-violent calls and free up law enforcement officers for serious reported crimes. A new City agency will be critical to ensuring we develop a successful unarmed intervention model.”

“As our various unarmed responder pilots roll out, we must make sure these programs don’t each exist in their own vacuum. It’s imperative that the City has dedicated personnel to ensure we are investing in the most successful ideas,” said Councilmember Blumenfield. “I’m committed to expanding the programs that work best and I’m grateful to my colleagues for sharing this vision.”

“We have reached a critical juncture in the City of LA and while we knew Reimagining Public Safety would not happen overnight, establishing an Office of Comprehensive Community Safety and Unarmed Crisis Response is meant to solidify the long-term results we all want to see; a system built on compassion, fairness and transparency,” said Councilmember Price. “The idea of Reimagining Public Safety was never meant to be a tagline or a way to pacify the heartache constantly felt within Black and Brown communities. It was a promise to Angelenos that they have been seen and heard by City leaders to challenge the status quo, abolish disparities and implement change. Coming together as a collective body and one voice shows the strength and commitment toward seeing this through.”

Today, O’Farrell also introduced a related effort to expand the CIRCLE pilot into the 13th District communities of Echo Park, Historic Filipinotown, and Rampart Village. Under O’Farrell’s leadership, these communities have made significant investments in housing solutions for people experiencing homelessness, notably: permanent supportive housing, as well as low-barrier and no-barrier options including multiple “Tiny Home Villages” and the former “Safe Sleep Village” which is now in the process of being converted into 454 low, very-low and extremely-low income units of permanent supportive housing.