Amid nationwide calls to “defund the police,” the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) on Tuesday evening denied a trio of police reform proposals, one of which would have cut the district’s police department budget by 90 percent over the next three school years.
After a marathon hearing lasting nearly 12 hours, the LAUSD Board of Education, which administers the second largest public school district in the United States, did not reach consensus on any of the three resolutions.
The most radical measure came from board member Monica Garcia, who called for reducing the LA School Police Department’s (LASPD) budget by 50 percent in the 2021-22 school year, 75 percent in the 2022-23 school year, and 90 percent in the 2023-24 school year. The freed-up funds would be redistributed to the “highest-need schools in support of African American students.”
“Removing police is not going to solve the problem of underfunding of schools or systemic racism,” Garcia said at the hearing. “This is a chance to transition away from police to another safety strategy.”
The other two proposals called for a hiring freeze on the LASPD and the removal of police from campus grounds, while a new committee would conduct a study on whether the district, which serves about 650,000 K-12 students, still needs police.
While Black Lives Matter activists and supporters were rallying outside the meeting and calling on the board to defund the district’s police department, the seven-member board rejected Garcia’s proposal in a 5-2 vote. The other two proposals both failed 4-3.
LASPD Chief Todd Chamberlain said during the hearing that while he acknowledged the demands for police reform, the presence of a police force is essential to campus safety.
“If you take away police … you’re still going to have people victimized,” Chamberlain told the board. “You’ll still have crime and still have an environment that’s not safe.”
LAUSD Superintendent Austin Beutner echoed Chamberlain’s comments, saying at the hearing that although he agrees there is a need to review existing LASPD policies and practices, he doesn’t think removing the police from schools can solve all problems once and for all.
“Those looking for a simple answer will be disappointed because I don’t think one exists,” Beutner told the board. “If the real objective of this conversation is to look at systemic bias, we will have to take a broader perspective because this is about more than school police.”
The 470-member strong LASPD is the largest independent school police department in the United States. Its sworn police officers, civilian school safety officers, and civilian support staff members oversee all school campuses within the district and patrol the surrounding areas. The department runs on a budget of $70 million, or 1 percent of the district’s annual budget.