Richard ‘Pedie’ Perez’s memory lives on in public safety changes
on September 23, 2023
Nine years after Richard “Pedie” Perez III died at the hands of a Richmond police officer, the department will honor Perez’s memory by requiring officers to participate in new cultural sensitivity training, beginning in November.
On Sept. 14, 2014, Perez was shot and killed by then-Richmond Police Officer Wallace Jensen outside of Uncle Sam’s Liquor Store on Cutting Boulevard. He was unarmed and nonviolent, according to six witnesses. Jensen retired from the department and the Contra Costa District Attorney’s Office did not file charges. In 2016, the Perez family settled a wrongful death civil suit against Jensen for $850,000. And in 2018, Richmond’s Citizen Police Review Commission sustained a complaint that “excessive and unreasonable force” was used against Perez.
“People should know about Pedie, they should know the story,” said Police Chief Bisa French. “Even though we did change some of our training policies prior to that, we have a lot of new officers, and they just didn’t know what had occurred, and they should. So we’ve incorporated what happened on September 14 into our training.”
This month, Richmond City Council also honored Perez, by declaring Sept.14 as a day of remembrance for him. Members of Perez’s family, some overcome with emotion, expressed their gratitude at the meeting.
“Thank you from the bottom of our hearts for trying to create some healing and closure for our family. It is very much appreciated,” Perez’s mother, Julie Perez, told the council.
Though thankful for the support, the Perez family still wants Jensen charged.
“We love all that’s happening here,” said Perez’s grandmother Patricia Perez. “But that cop is still walking free and enjoying his life. And it’s not their fault. It’s the judicial system’s fault. As long as he walks around nine years later like nothing ever happened, it’s just wrong.”
Since Perez’s death, his family has worked with other victims’ families to change laws to help the public access police personnel records, limit when police may use deadly force, and ensure suspensions for officers who commit serious misconduct, Richmond Mayor Eduardo Martinez said during his proclamation on Sept. 19.
In addition, the council took a step toward implementing a crisis response program that will divert some 911 calls away from police.
Perez’s father, Rick Perez, said a non-police response may have made a difference in his son’s case. “Had a non-police officer responded to this situation here, you know, they don’t have guns so they don’t shoot,” he said.
Ben Therriault, president of the Richmond Police Officers’ Association, said the new training program makes a lot of sense.
“Many of us in law enforcement have long since thought it was time to stop being the catch-all for everything our community and society needs,” said Therriault, who also serves on the Reimagining Public Safety Task Force, which is working to launch the Community Crisis Response Program.
Details about how the crisis response program will function are still being worked out, though recruitment to staff the program is set to begin in December.
“I feel like the people that matter are listening now,” Patricia Perez said.
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