San Francisco police recruits work on strengthening community bonds

Members of the 251st San Francisco Police Academy walked the streets of the Mission District on Thursday to build a better relationship with the public.

The “cultural immersion day” is part of the community relations training for the recruits who are set to graduate in September. It comes during a time of tense relations across the country.

“Right now we’re not seen as good, but we are good people,” Lary Cortes, an SFPD recruit, said.

She is among the 46 recruits hoping to change public opinion on her journey to bearing the badge.

“We want them to have the skills to get out of the police car, walk the beat, shake hands and get to know the people in their police districts,” Sgt. Michael Andraychak said.

The walking tour of the Mission is a way for recruits to better understand the communities they plan to serve.

“I think it’s a great opportunity for us to interact with the community and figure out what are the needs here so, if we do come here, we can serve in a better capacity,” Garth Langley, an SFPD recruit, said.

The recruits stopped at the Mission Eduction Project Inc. as part of their tour. It is an after school program for kids where the recruits talked, played games, and helped students with homework. The executive director of the program, Rita Alviar, said she hopes the recruits are just as successful as the current officers she works with in the Mission.

“The kids enjoy working with them, they play at the park, they go out on field trips,” Alviar said. “I need to see more people acting with police, than always saying negative things.”

Cortes agrees.

“I want to help the community, especially minorities,” she added. “I want them to know I’m here to help. I’m just like you.”

In addition to the community relation training, recruits must also complete volunteer work on their own time. The class is made up of 46 recruits that range in age from 21-55. There are 38 men and 8 women in the class. It is ranked as 63% diverse.