Filipino ex-gangster turned mentor: People and police must learn to communicate

SAN FRANCISCO – In New York, protesters carried black symbolic caskets across the Brooklyn Bridge, stopping traffic. In Washington D.C., demonstrators staged a “die-in,” blocks near the White House.

An in the Bay Area, protesters continued to fill the streets.

In San Francisco, Rudy Corpuz Jr. – founder of United Playaz, which has a violence prevention and youth mentorship program – says he disagrees with the destruction but understands the message.

“People are angry and you can’t blame how they are feeling,” said Corpuz. “What comes with anger, comes destruction sometimes.”

Corpuz, a former gangster and drug dealer, says the reason there is some distrust between minorities and the police is because there is no relationship between the two.

“I think a lot of officers need to be trained in the lifestyles of people living in these communities in the inner cities,” said Corpuz.

Corpuz says the first step into fixing the justice system is better communication.

“Until I started meeting good officers and having dialogue and realizing where they come from and what their job is – they have one of the most dangerous jobs on the planet – I started understanding and building relationships,” said the youth program leader.

Corpuz uses his past to teach children in one of the toughest neighbors in San Francisco on how to avoid possible confrontation with the police.

“When I have the police come through the doors, and they see me interact with them in a way we’re respectful and cool, I’m sure they start saying, ‘Rudy does it. Why can’t I do it?” said Corpuz.

Rudy says that the relationship that he has built between his program and the San Francisco Police Department has helped the community in dealing with recent issues in the justice system.

“We’re here always, talking about that issue, [it’s] nothing new,” said Corpuz. “We had the cops here and they talk to kids. They have good relationships with the kids.”

In New York, police officers are being re-trained following the death of Eric Garner. The training consists of de-escalation tactics and using less force when possible. NYPD will also begin to test body cameras on officers this week.

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