BERKELEY (KCBS) — Never before have we seen such a deep division between police and the communities they’re pledged to protect, and some local officers and departments are trying to stay mindful while they’re every move is under a microscope.
Chasing bad guys is what Berkeley Police Officer Veronica Rodrigues is good at but in this age of public distrust on both sides of the this blue line, she can see why the candidate pool is shrinking given the job satisfaction of just about any other career.
“There’s a greater appeal to that than strapping on a belt, getting paid a decent salary, and being under-appreciated on a daily basis,” Rodrigues told KCBS.
It is why she’s writing a proposal for a wellness program for the department, something she thinks will help officers make better decisions in the field.
“We neglect our emotional and mental well-being, and I think that’s one of the biggest things we often overlook in law enforcement. The public, they want to look at us and see we’re physically fit, which I think is one critical component for me in that sense that I’m able to keep a level head, and stay objective, and stay healthy,” Rodrigues said.
Oakland officer Sam Tith says not everyone is comfortable admitting when they need help, but with law enforcement under a microscope, mental health is critical.
“Sometimes it’s a challenge, but you’ve got to be aware – know your bodies, know your feelings. Like me, I work out every day, I got to know myself, exercise, talk to my family,” Tith said.
Michelle Soto-Vancil was 15 when her father, Oaklaand Police Officer Miguel “Mike” Soto was gunned down by a robbery suspect in the street. She knows it’s hard to see things as she does but hopefully people can understand the difficult decisions that are made daily.
“When that car’s coming at you with a suspect in it, and you think you’re going to get run over, or that gun is pulled out, or that knife, you can’t say what you would do. My dad was a black belt, a 22-year-veteran on the force, he’d never been hurt on the job, it was a split second, and he didn’t see it coming,” Soto-Vancil said.
South San Francisco Police Sgt. Ken Chetcuti’s uncle, a Millbrae Police Officer David Chetcuti, was killed in 1998.
“Everybody needs to come together in these difficult times. It’s not us against them, or them against us. It’s not their lives, or our lives. We all matter,” Chetcuti said.