Consistent dialogue brews rapport

Police engage in strategy to reach community

By Denis Perez, Staff Photographer

Students were given an opportunity to have coffee with police during the “Coffee with a Cop” event on Feb. 16 in AA-117, as an attempt to establish communication with Contra Costa Community College District Police Services.

As the name implies, the event was expected to breed a comfortable environment where dialogue could happen between campus officers and students through a cup of coffee, tea or pastries.

“I want people to know who we are. We want to reach out to the community,” Police Services Corporal Tom Holt said.

ASU Vice President of Club Affairs Safi Ward-Davis said officers want to stay in constant communication with the students and that is why they are developing a system.

The reputation of officers is ironically plagued by the same uniform that conceives them.

The event aimed to rebuild that image and “break the ice” between student and campus officers so they can build a close relationship.

With issues like police brutality becoming an important issue nationwide with extensive media coverage, stigmas continue to grow.  

As the nation’s attention focused on San Francisco for its activities surrounding Super Bowl 50 at the beginning of this month, performer Alicia Keys honored the efforts of activists present at the event for protesting against police actions that caused the death of San Francisco resident Mario Woods.

A video went viral shortly after, showing Woods being showered by police gunfire on Dec. 2, with online users adding stigma-filled comments.

Communications major Josh Zara said despite negativity from Woods’ death and other situations that surround police, he still has hope.

He said, “I see police as symbol of good and hope.”

Officer David Sano said police brutality happens everywhere and people “always make comments about it.”

Holt said police brutality is not a major problem in California. One of the reasons is because of the intensity of training the state requires.  

Officer Vanessa Alvarado said that police brutality is bluntly apparent in the East Coast while California bolsters better policing.

Apart from better training, Officer Charles Hankins said that campus conduct for police is different than municipal policing. There is an opportunity to be interactive in a campus and more friendly.

“To my knowledge in seven years we (Police Services) have never had a ‘use of force’ complaint. Not even one,” Holt said.

He said this phenomenon could be because when district Police Services has 100 reports, San Pablo could already have 5,000 reports.

Although Police Services is staffed with tight-knit community-oriented police officers, people on the three district campuses still perceive them as harsh, corrupted and detached.

“We sometimes are unapproachable by many students,” Sano said.

During the event, a survey was passed out to the students and staff in attendance to gather feedback. It contained questions about their feelings toward safety and the police.

Ward-Davis said surveying students about the campus police was also done in Financial Aid Awareness Day.

She said the ASU advertised the event sending out an email blast to students through InSite Portal. Administration of justice major Gregoria Murricia said she attended because she was interested after being notified by email.

Although she had never attended an on-campus event similar to “Coffee with a Cop” before, she said she was glad she took the opportunity to “casually” hold a communication with an officer.

“I enjoyed the open environment with the people and the officers,” Murricia said.

Holt said feedback from students is necessary and important.

Student and officer get-togethers like this one can only progress through constant communication in events and campus life.