What do Richmond high school students think about the Police Department, and how are they treated by them? Those are questions that one Richmond Police Commission member is interested in asking.
During a recent commission meeting Therese Barquet suggested she was interested in having all high school students in the city take an anonymous survey in which they could express their thoughts and feelings about local police.
Both John F. Kennedy High School and Richmond High School are urban schools that are considered closed campuses, with two officers assigned to each school. Richmond High School also has four security guards and cameras throughout the campus.
While tensions flared last month over an officer involved shooting – which is still under investigation – there is a widespread feeling that police relations with the community in Richmond are better than they have been in the past. But Barquet said she’d like to know specifically how high school age residents feel.
Richmond Police officials believe officers on campus improve safety.
Their websites states, “These officers are assigned to provide a safe and secure environment at these schools for the students, staff and the administrators.”
But Nasser Alghazali, a senior at John F. Kennedy High School, thinks differently. He recognizes that police are doing their job, but he doesn’t think they’re doing it correctly.
”They’re sometimes like teachers,” Alghazali said. “If you let them bully you around they will.”
When asked if he would feel safe calling on a police officer for help, Alghazali’s response was, “I would but it depends on what it is. If I can handle mines, I would rather do that before relying on a cop.”
Richmond Police Sgt. Dewayne Williams, who works at Kennedy High, said he would be interested in the results of the survey and he thinks it’s a good idea.
“Either way they answer, it will help us out. But if they don’t like us, find out why they don’t like us,” Williams said.
“We have kids that come here high every day,” said police officer Virgil Thomas, also from Kennedy high school.
Norma Ortega, a long time Richmond resident and mother of three, two whom have already graduated from Richmond High School, said she believes police are doing a great job. She noted that crime rates and murder rates have gone down in recent years. Ortega attends classes on how to be a better parent to her 14-year-old, a freshman at Richmond high.
The classes are offered by the police department in San Pablo.
“It’s programs such as these that help us the parents in collaboration with the police department to prevent our youth from becoming out of control, before it’s too late,” Ortega said in Spanish. “This is necessary for our streets to be safer and I can see the efforts that our officers are putting into the community.”
Still, some students have distrust for the police and believe they misuse their power.
Juan Ramirez, a freshman at Richmond High, said, “I don’t trust the police, because of what I’ve witnessed. They would arrest people for no reason.”
Jose Huendo, a freshman from Richmond High and friend of Ramirez’, disagreed.
“They’re good, I guess,” Huendo said of police.
The Richmond Police Commission has yet to make a decision on moving forward with this survey.