Crime & Justice

LA to open academy for ex-gang members turned peacemakers


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Los Angeles is set to open the first training academy in the nation for ex-gang members turned intervention workers.

The City Council approved a $200,000 contract with The Advancement Project to open the Los Angeles Violence Intervention Training Academy.

“This is a very, very, very important step for the city of L.A.," said the mayor's Gang Czar Guillermo Cespedes.

Cespedes said the academy will train and certify people like Melvin Hayward, a former gang member who says he left that life 11 years ago.

Hayward is now a gang intervention worker. He’ll work at the new academy teaching fellow ex-gang bangers how to conduct themselves as they seek to make peace among their old gangs.

“I can’t go and hang around gang members and smoke marijuana and drink alcohol and do some stuff that’s illegal or borderline illegal," said Hayward.

"I got to be above board a hundred percent of the time”

The academy is, in part, a response to a handful of intervention workers who slipped back into a life of crime.

Intervention workers are also working more closely with police, who want more accountability from them.

Cespedes of the mayor’s office of Gang Reduction and Youth Development said the city is seeking to professionalize gang intervention workers.

“I think that we need a training platform that not only trains people to do intervention work but identifies what criteria is being used to evaluate an effective intervention worker."

He said they're also working on a an oversight professional standards board that will certify intervention workers.

The Advancement Project will operate the training academy. The project was co-founded by civil rights attorney Connie Rice, who sits on KPCC's board.

The first classes are scheduled for March.