L.A. School Police Budget Cuts: Demonstrators Demanded Defunding

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First, Thomas Fuller with an update on the virus.

Gov. Gavin Newsom said Monday that the state had stepped up a crackdown on businesses flouting coronavirus-related restrictions, inspecting nearly 6,000 businesses over the holiday weekend.

More than 50 businesses were cited, the governor said. “The overwhelming majority of people were doing the right thing,” Mr. Newsom said.

With infections surging in the state, the governor last week reversed his reopening plan, closing down indoor operations of many businesses in the hardest-hit counties.

The number of counties on a state “watchlist” of rising cases has increased to 23 from 19 last week, the governor said Monday.

Testing has increased to more than 100,000 a day but the overall positivity rate of those tested has also increased by more than a third, reaching an average of 7.2 percent positive tests over the past week, according to state data.

Hospitalizations are up by 50 percent in California over the past two weeks, and hospitals are at capacity in some southern counties. But over all California is using just 8 percent of its hospital beds for coronavirus patients.

“We still have ample hospital capacity in our system,” Mr. Newsom said.

The California Capitol building was closed Monday as a number of people, including one lawmaker, were confirmed to have contracted the coronavirus. Autumn Burke, an assemblywoman representing Los Angeles, reported on Twitter that she tested positive for the virus on Saturday and had no symptoms. The decision to close the Capitol was made a day earlier, when the leadership of the Legislature learned that two other people who work in the building were confirmed to have the virus.

Katie Talbot, a spokeswoman for Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon, said the Capitol would be cleaned and sanitized during the closure. “Additionally, to help protect health and safety at the Capitol, legislative recess has been extended until further notice,” she said.

Will Wright fills us in on a debating roiling the Los Angeles Board of Education.

Members of the Los Angeles Board of Education who voted last week to cut 33 percent of the district’s police budget last week thought they had reached a compromise.

But not everyone agreed.

A day after the vote, the chief resigned after less than a year on the job, calling the $25 million cut “potentially life-threatening” for students and staff members. George McKenna, the only Black person on the seven-member board, said those who voted for it were more interested in appeasing the calls of activists than protecting students.

“It is extreme and unnecessary,” Mr. McKenna said. “I’ve never seen anything so ill-conceived and carried out with so much enthusiasm by elected officials.”

The budget amendment, which passed in a 4-3 vote, will force the school district’s Police Department to lay off about 65 of its roughly 330 sworn officers, according to a spokesman for the department.

New rules for police officers will also, at least temporarily, bar them from patrolling campuses and wearing the traditional blue uniform.

Some Black Lives Matter activists said the cuts did not go far enough. But board members who voted for the policy changes say they are an important first step in reimagining the role of the police on school grounds.

“I’m thrilled to see us finally addressing the institutional racism in how police departments were set up originally,” said Jackie Goldberg, a board member who voted in favor of the changes. “It’s time to have these discussions.”

According to the amendment, the $25 million will be redirected primarily to schools with the highest proportion of Black students. The money will allow those schools to hire social workers, counselors and safety aides who can, in theory, reduce the need for police officers by preventing violence before it happens.

“This is a big issue and it deserves big thinking, and one of the things you do to get people to think big is you incentivize them,” Ms. Goldberg said. “Removing some of the budget is a big incentive.”

Sgt. Rudy Perez, a spokesman for the school district’s Police Department, said the department would have to reduce its presence at sporting events, as well as the number of officers who specialize in mental health emergencies.

“That’s a massive hit for us,” Sergeant Perez said.

Sergeant Perez said the department had already focused much of its resources on prevention while responding to serious threats to student safety. During the 2019-20 school year, officers responded to more than 115,000 calls, including 95 robberies, 466 assaults and 155 mass-shooting threats.

“It’s not like we’re fighting to go out there and catch bad guys,” Sergeant Perez said. “All we want to do is protect kids.”

Nick Melvoin, a board member who voted in favor of the amendment, said that the district had “the best school police force in the nation,” but that the changes were necessary to address systemic racism within the district.

He also said that the Police Department — which represents about 0.8 percent of the school district’s roughly $8 billion budget — is one small piece of a very large puzzle.

“If the district wants to be serious about dismantling systemic racism and supporting Black lives, we need to look at that other 99.2 percent,” Mr. Melvoin said. “The focus on school police in particular is important, but is insufficient.”

We often link to sites that limit access for nonsubscribers. We appreciate your reading Times coverage, but we also encourage you to support local news if you can.

  • California has ample hospital beds, Governor Newsom said Monday. But some of the state’s worst outbreaks are occurring in counties with limited medical resources. Imperial County, on the Mexican border, has the state’s highest rate of Covid-19 cases. It has also sent at least 500 patients to hospitals outside its county lines, as far north as San Francisco and Sacramento. [Calmatters]

  • The Broadway actor Nick Cordero was admitted to a hospital in Los Angeles on March 30 with the coronavirus. Mr. Cordero, 41, had no known pre-existing conditions. He died on Sunday. As more data emerges, serious cases of younger, healthy people like him are becoming less of an anomaly, doctors say. [The New York Times]

  • What’s the definition of outdoor dining? Dave Fansler, the owner of Pismo’s Coastal Grill in Fresno, keeps the windows open in the restaurant and says he should qualify to stay open. The authorities disagree, saying it violates the governor’s orders, and have issued five citations. An employee at the restaurant tested positive for the virus but Mr. Fansler said “for sure” he did not catch it inside the restaurant. [Fresno Bee]

  • Sara Cody, the chief medical officer of Santa Clara County, proposed a reopening plan that would have allowed businesses like nail salons and gyms to reopen provided they followed a consistent set of rules around mask wearing and limits on the number of people allowed in indoor spaces at once. The state government nixed the plan. “They’ve granted variances to basically every other county that’s applied and they deny ours,” said Jeff Smith, Santa Clara County’s chief executive. “It makes no sense.” [Mercury News]

  • What do Kanye West and Governor Newsom have in common? Both have stakes in companies that received pandemic bailout assistance from the federal government. [S.F. Chronicle]

  • Primex Farms processes more than 60 million pounds of nuts at its plant in Wasco, in the San Joaquin Valley. One-fifth of the staff, around 80 workers, have been infected with Covid-19, along with 34 family members, including children, according to the United Farm Workers. The company says pistachio production was considered critical infrastructure. [KQED]

  • Beach closures in Los Angeles and Ventura Counties sent some beachgoers south to San Diego County over the holiday weekend. But a San Diego lifeguard said crowds were lighter than previous years. “It wasn’t by any means record-setting crowds,” said Lt. Rick Romero. [San Diego Union-Tribune]

  • The Sacramento City Code requirement is spelled out plainly: “The song, ‘The Star-Spangled Banner,’ is recognized as the national anthem of the United States. When this music is played on a proper occasion during ceremonials, at the close of concerts, theatres, etc., all present shall stand at attention, facing the flag, or, if no flag is displayed, facing the music, and shall render the salute to the flag.” Jack Lipeles, a Long Beach jeweler, is challenging the law. [Sacramento Bee]

California Today goes live at 6:30 a.m. Pacific time weekdays. Tell us what you want to see: CAtoday@nytimes.com. Were you forwarded this email? Sign up for California Today here and read every edition online here.

California Today is edited by Julie Bloom, who grew up in Los Angeles and graduated from U.C. Berkeley.

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