U.S. News

L.A. school board cuts police department's budget

(Reuters) - The Los Angeles board of education has slashed funding for the police department that patrols the nation’s second-largest school district, joining other U.S. school systems that have made similar reforms after George 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 $25 million, 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 layoffs, 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 in Minneapolis in May.

The teachers’ union and several local civic and school organizations 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.

In a separate action involving the city’s police department, the Los Angeles City Council voted Wednesday to cut $150 million from LAPD budget and shave the number of sworn officers well below 10,000, a level not seen since 2008, the Los Angeles Times reported.

Reporting by Brendan O’Brien in Chicago; Editing by David Gregorio