Morale among officers with the Los Angeles Police Department is tanking as the city, like the rest of the country, grapples with “constant verbal battering” and the looming threat of contracting the coronavirus, according to the police union head.
“I had one officer tell me that he feels like a Vietnam soldier returning home to a country that hates him, and that’s not a good place to be,” Robert Harris, the director of the Los Angeles Police Protective League, the local police union, told CBS Los Angeles Monday.
Police in L.A. and elsewhere around the country have faced harsh criticism since the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis police custody on May 25. Four police officers have been charged, and protests have cropped up across the country, some of them involving violent clashes with police. Activists and left-wing lawmakers have proposed defunding police departments as a result.
And all that amid the coronavirus pandemic.
Those factors have “beaten” and “bruised” LAPD officers, Harris told the outlet.
“The vilification and the constant verbal battering of our profession has taken a huge toll on top of what they were expected to do with the protests and COVID, so morale is low right now,” he said.
On Tuesday, the Los Angeles City Council approved the first part of a plan to replace police officers with unarmed first responders when dealing with nonviolent service calls. It’s one of several police reform proposals in the city, and Harris acknowledged that reforms are indeed appropriate – so long as they involve the police unions.
In a series of tweets, Councilman Herb Wesson Jr. argued that the current state of the LAPD “is not working” and that a month of protests against police violence “made that crystal clear.”
“We have a responsibility to listen to our people, and our people have spoken,” he wrote.
On top of that, lawmakers earlier this month voted to cut police funding by $150 million. Separately, Los Angeles County CEO Sachi Hamai has proposed cutting tens of millions of dollars from the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department.
Harris said the police budget cut would have “serious impacts” and cost about 800 officers over the next two years.
“With the World Cup and the Olympics coming, I don’t think we can afford to do that,” he said.