Research by Assistant Professor of Public Policy Emily Weisburst was cited in a Star Tribune opinion piece about racial disparities associated with police presence and crime. Weisburst co-authored a paper that looked at changes in police force size, crime and arrests in 242 large American cities over nearly 40 years in order to draw conclusions about the impact of police presence on different populations. They found that “investments in law enforcement save Black lives … but at the cost of more low-level ‘quality of life’ arrests and all the insults and injuries of intensive policing.” The authors calculated that, on average, one homicide is prevented per year for every 10 to 17 additional police officers employed, but the number of street arrests for low-level offenses, especially for Black civilians, also increases with greater police presence. The paper concludes that “Black communities are simultaneously over- and under-policed.”
Assistant Professor of Public Policy Emily Weisburst was mentioned in an Axios article about the presence of police officers on school campuses. Some school districts are considering replacing campus police officers with improved mental health services after studies have shown that Black and Hispanic students are disproportionately affected by disciplinary action in schools, contributing to the school-to-prison pipeline. Weisburst’s research also found that disabled students are disproportionately affected negatively when police or school resource officers rather than teachers and administrators maintain discipline. In her 2019 paper “Patrolling Public Schools: The Impact of Funding for School Police on Student Discipline and Long-Term Education Outcomes,” Weisburst found that school police presence was associated with a decrease in both high school graduation rates and college enrollment rates. Her analysis also confirmed that Black students experience the largest increases in discipline when police are on campus. Weisburst and others recommend increasing funding and quality of mental health services for students.
Property-related incidents are the most frequent type of police-related event at UCLA, followed closely by incidents involving people whose presence or behavior is deemed disruptive or out of place, without any indication of violence, according to a new report from the UCLA Lewis Center for Regional Policy Studies and the UCLA Luskin Institute on Inequality and Democracy. The study examines police activity at UCLA based on data compiled in compliance with the Clery Act, which requires public disclosure by the Police Department at UCLA regarding the nature, date, time and location of incidents, as well as their disposition status or outcome. The researchers use maps and charts to visualize Clery Act data relating to events involving police, plus some fire department responses, in 2014 and 2019, with supplemental information focusing on arrests by the UCPD in 2018, the most-recent information available. Less than 10% of events involve force or threat of violence, they found, and data maps reveal that a substantial amount of UCPD activity and arrests occur off-campus, mostly in the greater Westwood area but also farther afield. Paavo Monkkonen, associate professor of public policy and urban planning at UCLA Luskin, helped oversee the study, working with Noah D. Zatz and Jennifer M. Chacón, professors of law at the UCLA School of Law, and Alejandra A Martinez, an undergraduate research assistant at the Lewis Center who studies economics and was the lead author. Their report also found that more than 80% of reported police activity during the study periods did not result in follow-ups for any asserted or possible crime.
California Attorney General Xavier Becerra weighed in on the Golden State’s place in a deeply divided nation during a conversation with UCLA Luskin Dean Gary Segura just hours after polls closed in the 2020 election. As they awaited final results in the presidential race, Becerra told viewers that California’s unique role as an engine of innovation and economic growth transcends any election or individual politician. “Regardless of what happens around us, we set our destiny,” he said. Hosted by the Los Angeles World Affairs Council and Town Hall in partnership with the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs, the Nov. 4 dialogue touched on Becerra’s role battling the Trump administration on health care, immigration, climate change and scores of other issues. To date, the state has sued the federal government 104 times, Becerra said. “We go to court against Donald Trump not because it’s easy or it’s fun,” he said. “We go to court because we must protect our people, our values and our resources.” Of urgent concern is safeguarding the environment, he said, noting, “We have lost four years in addressing the climate crisis, and Mother Nature is not going to give us those years back.” As the state’s top law enforcement officer, Becerra called for more police training, accountability and transparency but noted, “Let’s not make it look like it’s a simple thing like ‘defunding police.’ ” He added, “I respect the work that’s done every day by men and women in uniform. I will go after those who have engaged in improper conduct in that uniform.”
An Economist article discussing the effectiveness of school police officers cited research by Assistant Professor of Public Policy Emily Weisburst. In the 1990s, a federal crime bill included funding for “school resource officers,” leading to the widespread presence of police on the nation’s elementary, middle school and high school campuses. The article cited an ACLU report showing that 14 million students attend schools with a police officer on campus but no counselor, nurse, psychologist or social worker. Still, many teachers call for reform rather than removal of the officers, according to an Education Week survey cited in the article. Weisburst’s research assessed student success in Texas school districts that used federal grants to hire resource officers. She found that they experienced a 2.5% decrease in high school graduation rates and a 4% decrease in college enrollment.
Since the death of George Floyd in police custody in Minneapolis, voices from across the UCLA Luskin community have joined the conversation about systemic racism in the United States, shedding light on its roots and leading calls to move toward true justice. The insights have been shared near and far. Here is a sample: Social Welfare Chair Laura Abrams told Asian news channel CNA that the wave of protest sweeping the nation has been “massive and powerful … and I don’t see it dying down any time soon.” Ananya Roy, director of the Luskin Institute on Inequality and Democracy, has led faculty from across UCLA to stand in solidarity with communities of color and “continue the unfinished work of liberation.” To explain Los Angeles’ role in the current unrest, the New York Times cited the Quality of Life Index produced by the Los Angeles Initiative, which found deep bitterness over the region’s immense income inequality. Public policy lecturer Brad Rowe told local reporters he was encouraging his students to express their support for criminal justice reform. And social justice activist Alex Norman, professor emeritus of social welfare, told the Long Beach Press-Telegram: “For most African Americans, the American dream is a nightmare. … What will it take to change the narrative? What we don’t have, leadership, at the national and local level.”
LAist cited Social Welfare Chair Laura Abrams in an article about budget cuts the city of Los Angeles is facing amid an economic downturn brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic. At issue is the appropriate level of funding for the Los Angeles Police Department. LAPD supporters say uniformed police have been expected to provide an ever-expanding array of community services, especially during the pandemic. Activists argue that law enforcement funding should not be increased while vital services go underfunded. On a conference call organized by the Stop LAPD Spying Coalition, Abrams said, “Police officers, even when well-intentioned, are not social workers.” Becoming a certified social worker requires special training, including adhering to a code of ethics and gaining the ability to advocate for vulnerable communities, she said, adding, “These skills or training cannot be paralleled by any work in law enforcement.”
Zev Yaroslavsky, director of the Los Angeles Institute at UCLA Luskin, spoke to Fox 11 News about police use of force in the case of George Floyd, who died in custody in Minneapolis. Images of a white police officer with his knee pressed against Floyd’s neck for several minutes as the unarmed black man pleaded for help have ignited protests around the country. “There is no excuse whatsoever. There is no chief of police who could defend engaging in that kind of physical restraint when somebody is already handcuffed and submissive,” Yaroslavsky said. In his years as a Los Angeles City Council member, Yaroslavsky was outspoken in his criticism of police use of chokeholds. The tactic was banned in Los Angeles in 1982 except in circumstances that call for deadly force. “Nearly 40 years ago, we ended that chokehold, and it’s just mind-boggling to me that law enforcement agencies across the country still use it,” Yaroslavsky said.
Social Welfare Professor Laura Abrams spoke to the Los Angeles Times about the growing threat of child sex abuse as children spend more time on home computers during lockdown. With schools closed and children staying home under COVID-19 shelter-in-place orders, law enforcement officials have been overwhelmed by a surge in tips about online child sex abuse. Sexual predators lurk on chat sites, social media and gaming platforms, often coercing children into sending inappropriate pictures, then blackmailing them for more explicit content. “In this time of shelter in place, unfortunately children don’t have a lot of contacts with mandated reporters: teachers, mental health providers, coaches, mentors,” Abrams said. Sexual exploitation can cause stress and suicidal feelings in children, and make it more difficult to focus or stick to normal sleeping patterns, she explained. However, huge disruptions to routine — which many kids have experienced recently — can lead to similar behavior or thoughts, Abrams added.
Zev Yaroslavsky, director of the Los Angeles Initiative at UCLA Luskin, spoke to KCAL9 News after a judge overturned L.A. County Sheriff Alex Villanueva’s decision to reinstate a fired deputy. The county Board of Supervisors had sued the sheriff’s department, contending that the deputy, who was let go over accusations of stalking and domestic violence, should not have been rehired. “This is not about some policy decision. This is not about whether you should put more police on the streets in Valinda or more in Willowbrook,” said Yaroslavsky, a former county supervisor. “This is about whether the sheriff’s department is going to hire or reinstate deputies who violated their oath of office.” He added, “If you’re a taxpayer or a voter in Los Angeles County, what the sheriff is doing is exposing your pocketbook to huge lawsuits, huge liabilities that the taxpayers are going to have to pay for.”
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