Gang intervention workers and police build trust
Robin Urevich (California Health Report) | October 16, 2012
Gang intervention workers and cops are working together to curb gang violence in Los Angeles. But trust between the two groups hasn’t come easily as some 40 Los Angeles Police Department officers and LA County Sheriff’s deputies made clear during a recent all-day training session on the topic.
Early in the day, LAPD Deputy Chief Pat Gannon, a 34-year LAPD vet who’s since retired, quickly established his tough cop bona fides before describing his growing support for gang intervention.
At the beginning of his career, Gannon said, “I really had a good time in South LA locking up knuckleheads. I had a blast.”
The officers – most of them young and casually dressed in jeans and t-shirts – listened politely, but many sat with arms crossed in front of their chests, their body language betraying their skepticism.
Gang intervention workers and cops have historically regarded each other with apprehension. After all, the ex-gangsters who do the work often don’t trust law enforcement, while police have questioned whether the workers, who mingle with gang members for a living, still dabble in crime.
Gannon, a third generation LAPD officer, said that as he got older, he realized he was focused too narrowly on arrests and he wondered if he was really making progress.
“I still want to put bad guys in jail but i also want to stop gang shootings.”
“We won’t solve homicides if we have retaliatory shootings,” Gannon said. Caseloads for detectives become too overwhelming.
Los Angeles is known as the gang capital of the world with 700 gangs and 40,000 gang members, according to a 2007 report by the Advancement Project, the non-profit that sponsored the law enforcement training.
Working with gang interventionists—most of them ex-gangsters-turned-peacemakers—can help stem the violence, Gannon argued. Their job is to persuade those most likely to seek revenge not to. They show up at the scenes of gang shootings to stop retaliation, broker peace deals between rival gangs, and aim to defuse potentially violent situations.
Gannon’s embrace of gang intervention represents a major cultural shift among the top brass at the LAPD. But the enthusiasm has yet to filter down to the department’s rank and file.
“Everybody’s kind of skeptical,” said Tony Batras, an LAPD detective who attended the session.
Cops wonder whether intervention workers, most of whom are ex-gangsters, have really cut their criminal ties, Batras said.
“Are they going to jeopardize our investigation or warn about our serving a search warrant?”
Read more at: http://www.healthycal.org/archives/9918
Tags: advancement project, former gang members, gang intervention workers, South LA