STOCKTON (CBS13) — “Law enforcement enforced slave codes, Jim Crow laws, facilitated lynching. We were part of the interment of the Japanese.”
By his own account, Stockton Police Chief Eric Jones says law enforcement has had a troubled history with its community. He believes the only way forward is dialogue with the community.
“These dialogues are so critical,” explained Chief Jones.
So critical, that they have gained the attention of California’s Department of Justice, which honored the members of the Stockton Police Department this week for its Principled Policing program – specialized trainings that focused on community building through direct input and participation by the community.
“Community trust is necessary for us to do our job,” says Chief Jones.
“We can’t police this city without the marriage of the police department and the community,” says Councilmember Elbert Holman, a former 34-year law enforcement veteran.
He says such initiatives,like the Community Response Team, have come a long way towards breaking down walls.
“They go out and knock on doors, door-to-door, to find out what’s your issue, what are the problems you’re having,” he says of the program.
The program has become so successful, that it has been certified by law enforcement governing bodies at the state level, and will be used in police academy training programs.
But that doesn’t mean the city is in the clear.
Stockton’s recent bankruptcy meant laying off over 100 officers, which in turn meant that minor crimes weren’t getting immediate attention. Other issues, like this year’s ACLU lawsuit, in which they accused the Stockton Unified School District of “rampant over-policing of students,” have all lead to mistrust of the police force.
“I always hear gunshots and I don’t see the police doing anything,” said Travis Nunez, a 16-year-old Stockton resident.
“I feel like sometimes they may bother people on purpose, so they think they have an advantage to mess with people,” said Vanessa Gonzalez, 15, of the Stockton police.
Chief Jones recognizes there still is much work to do, yet he adds, the community and the police force, together, are making progress,.
“When you look at the overall timeline of violent crime, we are moving in the right direction,” said Chief Jones.