New SJPD recruits required to hit the history books before they hit the streets

It's a new requirement for San Jose Police recruits: history class. The Chief wanted them to understand the current social and political climate. And so before they hit the streets, new officers are hitting the books.

This is a first-of-its kind class that Chief Eddie Garcia says was born out of necessity.

"They teach us a lot in the academy. What they don't teach us in the academy is all the negative things that American law enforcement’s been responsible for. We need to own up to that," Chief Garcia said. 

As part of a partnership with San Jose State University, the chief devised a history class.
They cover local topics like the 1933 lynching in St. James Park, the batons and brutality at 1969's Fiesta De La Rosas.

And they cover officer involved shootings from Ferguson, to Fruitvale Station.

"A lot of times, when you see these shootings take place, that's just the final straw in a situation that's been years in the making," Garcia said. 

The idea is to give new recruits context before sending them out in the community.

Bethany Torres said the class has been invaluable.

"At first it can be difficult to talk about or to listen to how others might perceive that, or the reason that others might have acted the way that they did. But in the end, it widens the picture," she said. 

The class is taught on San Jose State's campus by professor Greg Woods. He also brings in guest lecturers to give community perspectives.

He said he'd love to see other departments follow suit.

"This class helps us to save lives because it helps us to increase understanding and awareness of those very obstacles that have led to friction and a lack of trust," Woods said. 

Torres said she's taken the lessons to heart and will now use them on the street.

"Learning the facts behind it, it gives me more information to make sure it doesn't happen again," she said.