Richmond Police Department launched its new in-depth Cultural Competency training Wednesday by hosting an inaugural session that included members of the police department, city council, and the parents of Pedie Perez, who was killed by a Richmond Police officer.
The goal of the Cultural Competency training is to ensure that every officer, new or seasoned, will receive the necessary education and skills to engage with all community members compassionately and respectfully.
Cultural competency is defined as the ability of an individual to understand and respect values, attitudes, beliefs, and mores that differ across cultures and to consider and respond appropriately to these differences in planning, implementing, and evaluating health education and promotion programs and interventions.
The program also seeks to promote unity and trust within the community it serves and represents a firm commitment to "honor the diverse fabric of the community and uphold the human rights of all citizens," the department said.
The training will include the story of Pedie Perez, who was killed by a Richmond Police officer in 2014. Rick and Julie Perez, Pedie's parents, were invited to attend the inaugural session to underscore the need for changes within the criminal justice system as well as reconciliation with the community.
On September 14, 2014, Perez was shot and killed by former Richmond Police Officer Wallace Jensen in front of Uncle Sam’s Liquor Store on Cutting Boulevard.
Following the shooting, the Perez family became a fixture at city council meetings, urging changes in policing in Richmond and in California and working alongside the families of others affected by police violence.
Pedie's father, Rick Perez, feels the new training is a positive step.
"I think this is a step in the right direction; I'm glad we had the opportunity to talk with these guys," Perez said.
"I told them they have a responsibility as professionals; people look up to them, and we want to look up to them. These guys seem to have their heads screwed on better than the last generation did," Perez said.
Richmond Police Chief Bisa French said she recognizes the importance of confronting and learning from historical transgressions, including the actions of a group of Richmond police officers in the 1970s and 80s known as the "Cowboys," whose use of excessive force on the Black community was well documented.
"Facing our past with courage is the only way to pave a path to a peaceful future," French said. "This training is a crucial step in our journey towards a model of community policing that respects every individual, learns from our history, and moves towards a future where safety and respect are mutual."
Last September, the Richmond City Council honored Perez by declaring September 14 as a day of remembrance for him, providing some sense of support for his family. Following the event, the Perez family said they were encouraged to know that police officers would be more aligned with their cause.
Councilmember Soheila Bana, who also attended the session, said the Cultural Competency training program is the first of its kind in the country.
"Chief French is very modest. This training is so important, and Richmond is the first city in the nation to do it. It could easily become the model for other police departments in other cities," Bana said.
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