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Los Angeles Urban Peace Academy graduates second class of former gang members

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A class of 30 former gang members graduated from The Los Angeles Urban Peace Academy Tuesday. The academy is the first in the country to help ex-gangsters become intervention workers.

Like many of his classmates, Jerald Cavitt used to gangbang on the streets of South Los Angeles

“We wasn’t always nice people," Cavitt admitted, after the ceremony that honored him and 30 other program members. "But we promise to be respectful and courteous and professional and we are going to help lead the way in turning our city back around.”

At the Urban Peace Academy, Cavitt received 140 hours of training in crisis management, police procedures and post-traumatic stress disorder. The idea is to professionalize gang intervention work.

In 2011, the program trained more than 80 entry-level gang intervention workers and certified them for the City’s Gang Reduction and Youth Development programs. They also trained 240 lieutenants and sergeants within the LAPD and the Sheriff’s Department who had field duties within gang hot spots.

LAPD Commander Bob Green, who used to be skeptical about the program, said he has since embraced it.

“If we had had key interventionists in some of the neighborhoods that we didn’t, it would have stopped a number of the homicides that we had," he said. "I’m very, very convinced of that.”

Commanders like Green have urged the mayor to hire more ex-gangsters who can help keep the peace.