After hearing powerful first-hand accounts of Los Angeles police officers rescuing children from sex traffickers, the Police Commission on Tuesday called on the City Council to protect anti-trafficking efforts of the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) against budget cuts, reports the Los Angeles Times. The commission’s vote came amid a broader cultural conversation about defunding police and reducing their role in nonviolent incidents. Further, it came after the commission had received comments from activists who argued that the LAPD’s anti-trafficking initiatives “legitimize the criminalization of sex work,” increase policing of Black and brown communities and enhance surveillance of sex workers and “locations associated with sex work.”
It also came as LAPD leaders continue to bemoan the impact of a $150-million budget cut this summer and strategize how to avoid hundreds of potential layoffs under a still-evolving plan by city officials to close an estimated $650-million budget shortfall. LAPD Chief Michel Moore has repeatedly said the cuts would mean reductions in specialized services as he prioritized patrol coverage and investigations into surging violent crime. On Tuesday, he said he has tried to protect staffing on the anti-trafficking task forces, as well, but acknowledged that an order slashing overtime details had reduced work by those teams. Officials said L.A. is a hub for sex trafficking nationally, pointing to a joint local and federal investigation that recently rescued 33 children in Los Angeles.