We achieve our vision through the expertise and commitment of our staff
Our visionary is Connie Rice, a civil rights lawyer who has helped transform the L.A. Police Department from a suppression-based institution focusing on arresting its way out of the problem to embrace community-based policing. Susan Lee is Connie’s longtime co-visionary, who crafted our Comprehensive Violence Reduction Strategy and oversees the team implementing that strategy in communities across California, and beyond.
Connie and Susan are supported by staff that bring a wide mix of community organizing, data analysis, policy expertise and community-based research to the implementation of our public health approach to ending community violence. Beyond their training and expertise, every one of the Urban Peace team has a passionate commitment to improving the safety and quality of life for those living in communities most impacted by racial and economic injustice.
Read Connie's full biography here.
Fernando Rejón serves as the Executive Director and manages the overall operation of the training Academy for gang intervention workers, through coordination and facilitation of practitioner-led tables including the professional standards committee and regional training team. In addition, he manages the Advanced Law Enforcement Training which provides an overview of the particular role of intervention practitioners in effective violence reduction and community policing strategies. He has over 10 years of experience working in non-profits including 14 years of community organizing and program development experience. He began organizing as a university student fighting for the successful establishment of an Ethnic Studies program and working on preventing impending gentrification efforts in San Diego. While in college, he worked as a counselor for youth on probation re-entering the community from juvenile hall and camps. Later, he worked on issues of environmental justice in Pacoima where he co-developed and managed training institutes for community members, both youth and adults, focused on environmental health including the development of community-based curriculum to empower residents to seek social justice. He has also worked with indigenous communities organizing for alternatives to free trade agreements and to establish dialogues between U.S. people of color and indigenous peoples in México and beyond. He holds a B.A. in Sociology and Communication Studies from the University of San Diego and a M.A. in Chican@ Studies from California State University, Northridge.
Josh leads the legal advocacy work that focuses on the negative impacts of gang injunctions on communities throughout Los Angeles County. He co-leads the Ramona Gardens Safety Collaborative to build the capacity of residents and community-based organizations to increase community safety and develop the necessary resources to address the needs of families in the housing development. In addition, the Criminal/Juvenile Justice Reform work focuses on supporting and developing policies that meaningfully address the needs of residents in high violence communities. At Advancement Project, Josh served as the Equal Justice Works Fellow, sponsored by Munger, Tolles & Olson, LLP and Edison International. As a fellow, Josh developed and implemented a program to minimize the negative consequences of civil gang injunctions in Los Angeles communities and to provide representation to individuals who believe that they have been wrongly added to a gang injunction and/or who have made the choice to leave a gang and wish to remove themselves from injunction enforcement. Prior to his work as a fellow, Josh graduated from Harvard Law School where he was the Editor-in-Chief of the Harvard Journal on Racial and Ethnic Justice.
David Miranda is a Los Angeles native. He received his BA in Liberal Studies within an emphasis on behavioral & social science from California State University, Los Angeles. Throughout his academic career, Mr. Miranda explored perspectives on violence and structural inequality.
His public service began with the Los County District Attorney’s Office, where he worked in the Training Division, transferred to the high profile Major Crimes Division, and ended his term with the Victim-Witness Assistance Program. During his 14 years of public sector experience, specifically in County and City government of Los Angeles, Mr. Miranda advocated for victims of crime and inequality.
After 8 years in County service, he was appointed by Los Angeles City Council as a Boyle Heights Field Deputy assigned to special projects, public safety, land use & environmental justice issues of concern. After working for City Council, he was appointed as a Regional Manager, Program Coordinator for the Mayor’s Gang Reduction & Youth Development Office (GRYD) where managed intervention and prevention programs such as Proyecto Palabra & the Rampart Regional Strategy. Mr. Miranda lead a City-wide intervention strategy and was part of the team that developed the expansion of the City’s GRYD Zones.
Mr. Miranda is now with the Urban Peace Institute and leads the place-based direct services work area focused on increasing gang intervention capacity and service coordination among South Los Angeles violence prevention & intervention service providers. He supports local and national Academy training to develop and implement violence reduction strategies nationally and internationally. David lives in the San Gabriel Valley with his wife and three children.
Gilberto Espinoza works with government agencies, law enforcement, schools, and stakeholders in the community to achieve a collaborative and comprehensive solution to violence in Watts, Los Angeles. He coordinates the Watts Latino Leadership Institute, Watts Regional School Safety Collaborative, and supports efforts to advance a Watts Regional Strategy to reduce violence.
Eric Lam coordinates Urban Peace Institute’s Technical Assistance and Strategic Initiative efforts. In this capacity, Eric conducts and develops community assessments that include community surveys, focus groups, interviews, data and research analysis with a variety of stakeholders. Eric also supports the development of infrastructure for Gang Prevention & Intervention Services, Relationship Based Policing Strategies and Comprehensive Violence Reduction Strategies for municipalities. This can include policy reviews and memos, training curriculum development, and campaign development and support. Prior to his work with the Urban Peace Institute and Advancement Project, Eric Lam was a Senior Human Relations Specialist with the Orange County Human Relations Council. He has experience working in low-income housing and in diverse communities throughout CA and NY developing and implementing social and educational services and change. Eric has a background in community services, empowerment and engagement with an emphasis in leadership development and youth organizing holding positions with South Park Youth Center in San Diego, Project Access in Westminster, and the NYU Metropolitan Center for Urban Education in New York City. Eric is a proud Vietnamese-American and has also been involved with the Asian Pacific Islander Youth Collaborative in Orange County. He holds bachelor’s degrees in Political Science and Urban Studies & Planning from University of California, San Diego as well as a Master of Arts degree in Sociology of Education, Education Policy from New York University.
Sean Garcia-Leys works to address the overbroad targeting of communities for gang suppression. By doing so, his work reduces state violence, which is both a direct threat to public health and a root condition of community violence. To this end, Mr. Garcia-Leys litigates gang injunction cases on behalf of individuals wrongly accused of active gang participation, provides direct legal services for individuals seeking removal from gang injunctions or gang databases, and seeks judicial and legislative means to end counter-productive and unconstitutional gang suppression strategies. Before joining the Urban Peace Institute, Mr. Garcia-Leys worked for over a decade as a public high school teacher in Watts and Lincoln Heights. Before that, he worked as a labor union organizer. Mr. Garcia-Leys holds a J.D. from UC Irvine School of Law.
Caitlin Kosec oversees fundraising and communications initiatives for the Urban Peace Institute. Throughout her career, Caitlin has worked to improve community safety, advance education reform, as well as improve services for low income communities. Caitlin previously served as the Grants and Communications Manager at Interfaith Community Services, guiding a robust development team to secure diverse foundation, corporate and government support for social service programs. Caitlin was also the Development Manager for Advancement Project, where she secured foundation funding to engineer large-scale systems change to remedy inequality, expand opportunity and open paths to upward mobility. These funds were crucial in supporting Urban Peace's efforts to transform the City of Los Angeles’ approach to the gang violence.
In addition to her development career, Caitlin served as a scholarship director to promote higher education access and affordability, as well as an evaluator for education programs promoting cultural competency. Caitlin holds a Masters of Public Policy degree from Johns Hopkins University, as well as a Bachelor of Arts degree in History from the University of Mary Washington.
Jacob Albert leads the coordination of the Los Angeles Violence Intervention Training Academy (LAVITA), which focuses on personal and professional development for gang intervention workers and coordination of various practitioner, service provider, academic and subject matter expert tables. Jacob’s passion for developing alternative approaches to combating community violence arose from his five years as the Associate Director of Employment Services at Homeboy Industries. Past experience also includes work with Friends Outside, City University of New York (CUNY), VOA Crosswalk Homeless Youth Shelter, PEN America Center, LA’s Best, and Lennox School District; freelance writing for Lonely Planet Publications, The NY Press, and The Inlander Weekly; along with teaching positions in China and South Korea. Jacob possesses a MFA in Creative Writing from the City College of New York (CUNY) and a BA in English from Loyola Marymount University. Originally from Spokane, Washington, Jacob now lives in the East Hollywood neighborhood of Los Angeles.