L.A. Begins Training Unarmed Intervention Workers for Project TURN

Project TURN will provide unarmed responders with a wide variety of therapeutic resources in an attempt to cut down on police shootings

Project TURN initiative (Therapeutic Unarmed Response for Neighborhoods), the brainchild of Los Angeles City Councilwoman Monica Rodriguez, got started this week as officials continue to look for unarmed response alternatives to certain emergency situations in an attempt to curb police shootings across the city.

The initiative, which launched with $2.2 million in city funding, provides trauma training and support services to community intervention workers following a series of police shootings since the start of the New Year that have renewed demands for major reform. Keenan Anderson, Takar Smith, and Oscar Sanchez were killed within 25 hours of each other in January, while the killing of double amputee Anthony Lowe has also continued to stoke nationwide outrage.

Following the killings of Anderson, Smith, and Sanchez, Councilmen Marqueece Harris-Dawson and Bob Blumenfield filed a motion seeking funding for an Office of Unarmed Response while Rodriguez called to expand the LAPD’s Mental Evaluation Unit and Domestic Abuse Response Team. Now, continuing these efforts, Rodriguez is citing Project TURN as a more equitable investment in community-based public safety.

“We want to avoid the crisis before we’re in one,” Rodriguez said of the project, FoxLA reports. “Community-based public safety workers are regularly exposed to high trauma environments and providing comprehensive training and support is an important tenet of how our City will deliver transformative change.” 

Anticipating the need for improved training in de-escalation, TURN parallels other community-safety training programs like the Reverence Project, the BUILD Program, and the Community Based Public Safety Collective (CBPS). It’s also not the first time officials have advocated for unarmed intervention. In August 2022, Councilman Mitch O’Farrell led a move to divert non-violent calls to an Office of Unarmed Response, while early 2022 saw the county Department of Mental Health launching another unarmed response program called the Therapeutic Transport Van.

TURN will also provide services for those who intervene as well as to those receiving intervention. It will partner with CBPS for emergency support while also offering community intervention workers everything from therapeutic yoga services to traditional therapy to meditation and healing circles.

“Unaddressed personal and community trauma is one of the causes of violence, and the work that community based public safety professionals do often involves helping individuals address and heal from trauma,” said CBPS co-founder Aqeela Sherrills at Project TURN launch event at the Los Angeles New Testament Church. “The fact that Los Angeles is also willing to support the individuals who do this work shows a great understanding about the challenging work they do and how it impacts their personal health and well-being.”

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