Read Karen Bass’ open letter to Los Angeles on how we restore public safety here.
At the height of the crack cocaine and gang violence epidemic in Los Angeles, Karen Bass was treating victims of violent crime in the County/USC hospital emergency room.
She realized that applying pressure to her patient’s wound might save one life, but it wouldn’t stop her city from bleeding. That’s why Rep. Bass started Community Coalition, an intergenerational Black and Latino South LA-based organization. The Coalition brings together neighbors, students, faith leaders, law enforcement, educators and non-profit organizations to prevent violence by addressing the root causes of crime – including poverty, substance abuse, and the lack of access to supportive services.
Above all, Bass firmly believes that the Mayor’s most important responsibility is to keep Angelenos safe.
When someone commits a crime, they must be held fully accountable. And if they serve time, they need access to the employment opportunities, education, and housing that will help them successfully re-enter society, and prevent future involvement in crime.
Rep. Bass knows that can only happen by moving beyond failed approaches to fight crime, addressing current safety crises swiftly and effectively, building comprehensive strategies that stop crime at its source, and providing safety in all neighborhoods.
She understands that public safety means different things to different neighborhoods: some communities want to see increased visibility from police patrols, while other neighborhoods find more value in proven model programs that build trust and cooperation between community members and law enforcement. It’s time to tailor crime response to the needs of individual communities.
Rep. Bass understands that breaking cycles of crime requires going beyond law enforcement to provide coordinated prevention, intervention, mental health services, substance abuse treatment, and other social services.
Rep. Bass knows that when we’re talking about crime, it’s already too late to save lives, property, and taxpayer dollars.
We’ve tried arresting our way out of the problem before – it doesn’t work. People who are able to put food on the table, send their kids to good schools, and pay their rent are less likely to commit crimes. That’s why Bass will double down on crime prevention, which saves lives and property before they are taken – and saves taxpayer dollars. She would invest in social services and job programs that will help quash economic inequality, keep at-risk youth off the streets, and give outreach workers the support needed to get people experiencing mental health and behavioral crises back on their feet. Next month, Bass will continue to unveil new ideas around crime prevention, intervention and police reform.
Bass understands that the spike in crime in Los Angeles demands an urgent and thoughtful response. That’s why Karen Bass is proposing an immediate plan to reverse Los Angeles’ unacceptable rise in crime, starting with effective and responsive policing and a focus on homicides and guns.
Grow the Effectiveness and Diversity of the LAPD
Hire Civilians to Take Over Desk Jobs
- Today, hundreds of officers are stuck behind a desk doing administrative work. Bass will immediately hire and deploy civilians to free up at least 250 officers to take over the paperwork and free up officers for patrol, enabling the department to quickly deploy officers to neighborhoods requesting increased police presence.
- The LAPD is down hundreds of officers from its authorized force of 9,700. Bass will return the LAPD to its full authorized force.
- As Mayor, Bass will provide funding to the Personnel Department to aggressively recruit new officers who are invested in reform and accountability. She will also charge the LAPD and Personnel Department to develop a five-year strategic plan that creates a reliable flow of recruits to ensure that the LAPD maintains its full strength year after year.
- Bass supports ensuring law enforcement has the resources, personnel, partners, and tools needed to do effective law enforcement and comprehensive community safety. In fact, the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act – the historic legislation that Congresswoman Bass introduced – provides hundreds of millions of dollars to police departments across the country to improve their abilities to effectively serve the communities they have sworn to protect.
Hold the Police Chief and Commission Accountable Around A Shared Community Safety Vision and Strategic Deployment of the Force
- Accountability starts at the top. Bass will be a hands-on Mayor who looks for leaders who embrace accountability, are committed to preventing and reducing crime, and increasing mutual trust between officers and communities. She will lay out clear goals and expectations for the Police Chief and Police Commission – and she will expect them to meet those goals.
Improve Training for Officers
- Bass will require the LAPD to use evidence-based training models that support reforms, including transparency, accountability and de-escalation tactics. Crucially, as a hands-on Mayor, Bass will follow through and hold department leaders accountable for ensuring training policy is translated into actual, quality training of officers, with clear timelines and verification.
Bolster the LAPD’s Bureau Homicide Sections to Solve More Murder Cases
- Too many shootings and murders go unsolved. Failure to solve these cases leads to more public distrust of the police – and more violence.
- Los Angeles has a complicated relationship with policing – the force’s history has destroyed trust in some communities, making some people less likely to come forward when a murder is committed, and inhibiting the police force’s ability to solve crimes quickly.
- Solving shootings and murders should be LAPD’s top priority – but only 55% of murders were solved in 2020. Rep. Bass will invest in specialized detectives and investigators who will deliver justice to victims and their families, solve crime quickly, and build trust between officers and communities.
- Bass will expand Community Safety Partnerships (CSP) – proven models that are specifically designed to address gang violence and homicides, and to repair trust between communities of color and police.
Get Guns Out of the Hands of Those Who Shouldn’t Have Them
- Gun violence and homicides in Los Angeles are now at their highest point in fifteen years. Rep. Bass will make it a top priority to prevent anyone who is prohibited from owning a gun from having one.
- California’s Red Flag law allows law enforcement, employers, teachers and family members to file for a Gun Violence Restraining Order if they are concerned an individual poses a danger to themselves or others, and should not have firearms. But there were only twenty-five reported orders in Los Angeles County in 2020. We need to educate Angelenos about this powerful prevention tool – and train police officers to use its protocols.
- Bass will also invest resources to ensure that the Armed Prohibited Persons System database is continually updated. And she will lead coordinated enforcement efforts to go after ghost guns and other illegal weapons that lead to crime.
- Nearly 9,000 illegal firearms were seized in the city last year – by far the most in a decade. That figure included nearly 2,000 ghost guns. Bass will prioritize bringing charges against people who use ghost guns, as well as those who sell or transfer guns used in violent crime.
Create a Regional Strategy for 21st Century Public Safety and Health
- Rep. Bass understands that the City of Los Angeles is not an island, and that city safety requires regional strategies. She will use her proven leadership as a coalition-builder to work with her counterparts across the L.A. region and develop strategies for public safety that expand beyond city lines.
Getting Bail Reform Right
- Too many Angelenos without a criminal conviction are in jail simply because they cannot afford bail. But bail reform does not mean a carte-blanche get out of jail free card. Zero dollar bail was designed to decriminalize poverty — and to prevent the spread of COVID-19, but local justice officials must properly implement the policy by taking public safety into consideration. Voters don’t want bloated jails full of people that don’t pose a risk to public safety — but that requires justice officials to do their job.
Fight Property Crime
- Bass understands that there are no “victimless” crimes – property crimes devastate families and small businesses. Bass will increase foot and bike patrols where requested, partner with Business Improvement Districts, and ensure that new state funding is dedicated to the creation of a Small Business Recovery Fund, which will help small businesses recover from smash and grab crimes.
Elevate Hate Crime Enforcement and Prevention
- Los Angeles recorded the most hate crimes among large U.S. cities last year, posting a 71% jump in incidents – including a steep rise in anti-Black, anti-Asian, anti-Semitic, anti-immigrant, and anti-LGBTQ violence. Hate crimes have no place in the City of Angels.
- As Mayor, Bass will elevate hate crime enforcement and prevention within the LAPD and, recognizing that many hate crimes go unreported, will work with communities and lead a citywide public education campaign to build trust and awareness. Bass will vigorously protect the right of every Angeleno, regardless of their race, religion, sexual orientation, gender identity, or immigration status, to live safely and freely.
- We must use every tool at our disposal to prosecute hate crimes and hold perpetrators accountable, including hate crimes enhancements when warranted, and better community partnerships to encourage reporting while protecting victims’ privacy and immigration status, and to deploy policing resources more effectively.
Fund Supportive Services and Increase Co-Response Teams
- Los Angeles has not made the necessary investments to secure a strong enough social fabric to ensure that people’s basic needs are met. Instead, we ask police officers to address every societal issue that results from the tears in the fabric, whether it be mental illness, addiction, homelessness, or poverty. We ask these overstressed police officers to fill roles they are not trained or equipped for — doubling as social workers, conflict negotiators, and medical responders.
- In Congress, Bass introduced the Community-Based Response Act, which would provide funding for community-based emergency response, so that trained professionals respond to instances of mental and behavioral health, and police officers are freed up to respond to crime.
- Bass will immediately increase co-response and alternative response teams, like the new CIRCLE initiative, that include mental health, homeless outreach and other specialists who can respond to people in distress, freeing officers to focus on crime.
Community Partnership, Intervention, Prevention, and Reform
Expand and Invest in the Community Safety Partnership Program
- Bass will expand and invest in the Community Safety Partnership (CSP) program. Now located in ten sites across the city, CSP trains officers in de-escalation and relationship building, and places them in five-year assignments where they become integrated in the community. The officers are paired with intervention workers – often former gang members – who have deep ties to the community. This evidence-based model has been proven to prevent violent crime, and build trust between the department and neighborhoods.
- Bass will fully restore the expert validated ‘whole of community’ safety strategies that teams of trusted police, community members, gang interventionists and experts have done to boost safety, build trust, cut police use of force and drop violent crime with fewer arrests in the most dangerous, underfunded neighborhoods of Los Angeles. Bass does not view CSP as a program – she sees it as a new paradigm in policing.
A Commitment to Police Reform
- Due to the historical legacy of institutional racism in Los Angeles, arrests and incarceration disproportionately fall on the shoulders of Black and Brown people in our city. Black and Latinx Angelenos are more likely to be stopped by the police, subjected to excessive force, arrested, and jailed than white Angelenos.
- We must end harmful policing practices like racial profiling — all of which actively undermine public safety and community trust in law enforcement. Use of excessive force, including deadly shootings of unarmed civilians, undermine the integrity of, and public trust in, the police. Violence and brutality of any kind, particularly at the hands of the police meant to protect and serve our communities, must not be tolerated.
- Rep. Bass has spent her adult life working on police reform, and will continue to do so if elected mayor – by focusing on how to safeguard our communities, preventing the conditions that lead to arrests, and rehabilitating people. Bass will examine police reforms that were proposed in the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act and recommendations made by President Obama’s Task Force on 21st Century Policing, so that community concerns over officer-involved shootings are addressed, and ensure that police are held accountable when discharging their weapons.
Provide Dedicated Budgets for Senior Lead Officers for the First Time
- Senior Lead Officers are integral to crime prevention and community safety. For the first time, Bass will ensure that SLOs receive their own budgets to fund their crime prevention programs. From community education to convening task forces that tackle problems like burglary to supporting our unhoused neighbors, these men and women are bridge-builders and problem-solvers who develop deep relationships within communities.
Invest In Comprehensive Crime Prevention to Address Root Causes
- Bass will invest in comprehensive prevention that addresses the root causes of crime by fortifying and expanding the prevention systems already proven to reduce violence, interrupt gang involvement, and increase family health.
- That work will include pushing for the restoration of programs that keep kids off the streets, addiction recovery, mental healthcare, and other resources in low-income areas to give outreach and intervention workers the support they need to help people experiencing mental health and behavioral crises get back on their feet.
Re-envisioning Public Safety in Los Angeles
- Community Safety isn’t just about crime – it’s about helping people in desperate circumstances get help. When someone is experiencing a mental or behavioral health crisis, police officers aren’t always the right people to address the issue. Every city department has a role to play in keeping our streets and communities safe – from the Department of Transportation to Recreation & Parks.
- That’s why Rep. Bass will create an Office of Community Safety in the Mayor’s office, which will bring together every part of city government to make our city safer.
- During her first year in office, Bass will convene experts on public safety and policing from around the country. The Mayor’s Office will reach out to every neighborhood in Los Angeles to hear directly from Angelenos about their concerns and perspective on public safety – and livestream each meeting to ensure transparency and public access. Bass will use findings from those conversations to develop a neighborhood-specific strategy to re-envision public safety, and ensure that the needs of individual communities are met.
- The Mayor’s Office will also conduct meetings with every division of rank-and-file police officers in the city, to hear and integrate the concerns of officers into her community safety plans.
In Congress, Bass introduced the Community-Based Response Act, which would provide funding for community-based emergency response, so that trained professionals respond to instances of mental and behavioral health and our officers are freed up to respond to crime.
- The Office of Community Safety will seek out federal, state and other funding to devote resources to these community solutions. This community engagement will not be ad hoc. It will be structured and ongoing.
After witnessing the horrors of violent crime firsthand while treating ER patients at County USC hospital, Bass founded Community Coalition, a community-based organization in South LA that is still on the front lines addressing substance abuse, poverty and crime.
When a local neighborhood in South Los Angeles experienced a wave of homicides concentrated during the weekends, the organization convened young people to hear directly from them what needed to be done to prevent more violence. That work led to Summer of Success – which resulted in a dramatic reduction in homicides. Today, that program has evolved into Summer Night Lights – a program that keeps parks open at night in gang-heavy neighborhoods so that young people can gather safely and enrich themselves rather than falling into trouble.
- The Mayor’s Office will expand upon the work of the city’s Gang Reduction and Youth Development (GRYD) program to provide meaningful gang prevention and intervention strategies.
Support Victims of Crime
- California’s Victim Compensation Board offers compensation for reimbursement and recovery resources for victims of crimes – but the bureaucratic process is often too cumbersome for people recovering from trauma. Bass would establish her own Crime Victims Fund specifically for affected Angelenos that is designed to supplement state compensation and help victims cope with funeral costs, and the physical, financial, and emotional repercussions of crime.