Cool-headed cop has eye on crime reduction
on October 27, 2009
He walked from a work car to his SUV, lifted the hatch and dug into his personal items, sifting in the methodical way he does most things. A bottle of clear hand sanitizer. A handy flash-drive that holds all his reports. A cache of shells and a sleek, black shotgun.
Just after 8 a.m., the weather was mild with an ocean breeze. Fresh off his morning briefing, he was ready for a day at the office. In a city known for its industrial origins and rugged streets, Richmond police officer Phillip Sanchez glides about his job with a curious cool.
He speaks in measured tones that seem better-suited to a cubicle than a squad car. His slight build appears even wispier when animated into his deceptively brisk, feather-footed stride.
But after just under one year with the Richmond Police Department, Sanchez is thoroughly at home in the city.
“I had a job as a police officer in the South Bay area, and it was a good job,” Sanchez said while trolling slowly down Fourth Street. “But I wasn’t doing much, just getting paid, and I didn’t see myself going anywhere.”
After a pregnant pause, Sanchez was more succinct about his old job.
“I was bored,” he said.
Sanchez, a youthful 37, is a fresh face around the nearly 200-officer strong Richmond Police Department, but he’s a worker, the kind of steady, dependable hand who has room to rise.
When a homicide spike in the city draws local media to the station, Sanchez’ supervisor, Lt. Mark Gagan, has made it a habit of tasking Sanchez with showing the reporters around and providing quotes and context.
Ask Sanchez about ambition, and he is diplomatic.
“Sure, I want to do the job as well as I can,” he said.
Sanchez is not short on observations about his city. He relishes his assignment as a daily liaison to administrators at a local elementary school.
The street vagabonds and ex-cons on his beat know him, and greet him with a wary respect. He addresses dozens of them by name.
If you expect a brawling, bawdy cop intent on cleaning up a crime-addled community with a heavy hand, Sanchez isn’t it.
Instead, he fluently speaks the en vogue gospel of modern policing, stressing concepts like cooperation, community relations and prevention.
“Look at prostitution, for example,” Sanchez said. “It’s pretty widespread in my area, but we can pick them up and they’ll just be back out in eight hours, like an endless circle.”
Sanchez paused, as he often does between sentences. Always careful.
“Arresting people isn’t the answer alone, it’s just one part of a long process of making Richmond a better place.”
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