Realizing that many Los Angeles public housing communities’ negative police interactions far outweighed the positive, the Los Angeles Police Department teamed up with the city’s housing authority in 2011 to create the Community Safety Partnership Program. So far, the program has proven to be a much-needed savior in South L.A.
CSP initially placed 45 permanent police officers at four public housing units: Nickerson Gardens, Imperial Courts, Jordan Downs, and Ramona Gardens. The permanent placement allows residents and officers to familiarize themselves with each other, and enables the officers to actually integrate into the community.
“This is an opportunity for officers to work side by side with residents and community members to develop and implement sustainable programs, eradicate crime, address quality of life issues all while simultaneously bridging the gap between the community and the LAPD,” said the program’s website.
CSP is especially beneficial because of the historical bad blood between the LAPD and the communities that the program serves.
Three of the four communities are in the Watts neighborhood of South Los Angeles. The area has long had a volatile relationship with police predating the well-known Watts Riots. The 1965 riots began after an altercation between a cop and a drunk driver that led those in the community to allege police brutality. Six straight days of rioting followed resulting in the deployment of 4,000 California National Guardsmen, 34 deaths, 3,400 arrests, and $40 million in property damage. To say the relationship between the community and police needed repair is an understatement.
And while this program is community policing at its finest, it goes beyond that.
Since it began, CSP has created various programs that increase the quality of life and engage community members. They’ve started the Watts Bears Football Team, which consists of 9-11 year olds from all four housing developments. In Ramona Gardens, they created a Girl Scout troop. A philanthropic organization even stepped in to help CSP fund camping trips for youth in all of the communities.
In terms of justice reform CSP has created Sunburst Youth Academy (SYA) as an alternative to arrest. SYA is a nearly six month long military style academy whose mission is to, “intervene and reclaim the lives of 16-18 year old high school dropouts.” CSP also provides referrals for recovery, social and mental health related programs.
According to a 2012 Urban Peace Institute report, CSP has been an instrumental part in the 50% reduction in violent crime in three of Watts’ housing developments.
CSP said, “We consider the spirit of the law, not the letter of the law. We also focus on educating the public, empowering the youth and problem solving.”
The program’s coordinator went on to say, “LAPD has evolved into the premiere agency in building relationships with communities like these. Helping to dispel past distrust and strained relationships with law enforcement is a major factor of the CSP program’s success.”
CSP is changing the culture of the Watts neighborhood, not long ago it was a place with almost no positive police interaction where residents were afraid to leave their homes. Now, police are seen as community members and residents are taking an active role in rebuilding their community.