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Santa Rosa teens learn what it’s like to be a cop

With her eyes glued to the computer screen and her fingers racing at the keyboard, Anahi Rincon of Santa Rosa typed down everything a woman who said she was suicidal and on top of a 14-story building told crisis negotiators: She was distressed because she was homeless and without a job.

Luckily, the call wasn’t real. The woman heard on the speaker was a volunteer taking part in a simulation exercise for Santa Rosa Police Department’s Youth Community Police Experience program.

Rincon, 17, and nine other teens crammed into a police mobile command vehicle Tuesday at Santa Rosa’s Fire Training Center. As part of the simulation, it was their job to call the woman and convince her to come down safely.

“When you’re typing in the computer and entering information to the system, you can’t stop,” Rincon said of her role as a scribe. “It was a good experience and eye-opening seeing how they work.”

The day’s workshop was one of several hands-on learning scenarios put together this week for the free youth program, which provided 21 teens with a four-day crash course in policing. It covered everything from working as a patrol officer to vehicle collision investigations and collecting evidence.

Some teens were there to explore their interest in a career in law enforcement, while others are simply interested in learning about how officers work in their community, said Christine Morrison, a Santa Rosa police school resources officer who organized the program.

Started in 2015 under a different name, its goal is to give local youth a close-up view of law enforcement, more than what they might see on TV or in movies, Morrison said.

“We know that people know what officers look like, but what they don’t know is what they do and why they do it,” she said.

This year’s cohort was mostly composed of Santa Rosa-area youth, ages 14 to 18, though some were from Rohnert Park and Sebastopol. To be admitted, applicants need to have at least a 2.0 GPA and no felony convictions.

Last year, only 12 students participated in the program, though a concerted effort by the department to spread the word about the opportunity this summer may have led to an uptick in attendance, Santa Rosa Sgt. Jeneane Kucker said.

The department already has a waitlist for next year, and is considering adding a second Youth Community Police Experience in the fall because of high demand for the one held this week, she said.

“We weren’t fully prepared for the response,” Kucker said of the demand from local teens.

For Rincon, the workshops she attended this week will boost her exposure to law enforcement as she pursues a career in the field, she said.

Rincon was drawn to policing because of her desire to help others in her community, she said.

“Seeing how police officers work in their daily routine, it’s a motivating experience,” she said.

You can reach Staff Writer Nashelly Chavez at 707-521-5203 or nashelly.chavez@pressdemocrat.com. On Twitter?@nashellytweets.

Nashelly Chavez

Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, The Press Democrat 

Who calls the North Bay home and how do their backgrounds, socioeconomic status and other factors shape their experiences? What cultures, traditions and religions are celebrated where we live? These are the questions that drive me as I cover diversity, equity and inclusion in Sonoma County and beyond.   

 

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