The Citizens Police Review Commission on Wednesday finalized its recommendations for the Richmond Police Department, emphasizing a preference for non-lethal methods of apprehension. The recommendations come four years after the death of Richard “Pedie” Perez III, a young, unarmed man who was killed by Officer Wallace Jensen in September 2014.
Among the recommendations are suggestions that police prioritize the use of non-lethal weapons and actions, such as pain compliance and joint manipulation. The recommendations also call for an emphasis on training for officers that would engage them more with the populations they serve to reframe the “us versus them” mentality.
Also included are suggestions that encourage police to become a model for other departments nationwide in the use of non-lethal apprehensions and to expand community outreach. More effective and reliable translation services for non-native English speakers in Richmond-related matters are also recommended.
Back in 2014, the Contra Costa District Attorney’s Office found Jensen had shot Perez in self defense. His family settled for $850,000 in a wrongful death suit in 2015. Since then, the Perez family has been challenging the police commission to do better. Finally, in 2018, their efforts may see some change come to the force.
Perez’s grandmother, Patricia Perez, showed up to the evening’s meeting, wearing a sign around her neck of a picture of her grandson as she has in past meetings. In her hands, she carried a blue cloth bag with a large heart painted on the side. Inside the heart it says “Justice for Pedie.”
She and her family have been fighting for changes in how Richmond’s police forces handles the unarmed for four years. She didn’t see tonight’s adoption of the recommendations as a victory.
“I never thought of it in that way but anything that can change killing unarmed people is good,” she said. “I considered it a victory when we got the ruling on May 2,” she said, referring to the CPRC decision finding Jensen had used excessive force against Pedie Perez.”
“We know that’s just a baby step and it’s not gonna change what this cop did. We can never get Pedie back, but if we can change the laws that allows cops to murder people, he didn’t die in vain, at least,” she said.
While both Perez’s grandmother and his father, Rick Perez, viewed the recommendations as a step in the right direction, some had already been in effect when the young man was killed, said the Richmond Police Officer Association representative Ben Therriault. According to Therriault, these recommendations will mean nothing if the resources to make them happen aren’t provided by the city.
Similar to Therriault’s comments, Pedie’s father says the challenges Richmond is facing with its police force come down to money and training, and a lack of emphasis on training in non-lethal methods for apprehending suspects. For him, the adoption was a small victory for change.
“If I want to get to the top, I have to climb the ladder one rung at a time,” the father said. “I feel like I’m climbing it. Still down at the bottom, but one of these days I’ll get to the top.”
Correction: An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated CPRC chair David Brown was alone in deciding police used excessive force against Richard “Pedie” Perez. The entire committee was involved in this ruling.