Humanizing the badge: Staff required to talk to people in the community on a daily basis

SAN BENITO — One day when Constable Adrian Gonzalez was in the first grade he had a headache.

He told his mother, who would watch him walk to school from the end of the street every day that if the ache worsened, he would walk home alone.

When the headache became unbearable, he told his teacher he was going to go home and he began the short trek by himself.

However, what his teacher heard was him asking if he could go to the restroom.

As soon as he got home, he saw the red and blue flashing lights of a police car. He and his mother stepped out of the house wondering what was going on.

Officer Felipe Reyes, who was a friend of Gonzalez’s father, wanted to know if he was OK.

Gonzalez said once he saw the man, a former Marine, he was enamored by his presence and even shinier boots.

“He was nice and he wanted to know if I was OK,” Gonzalez said. “That’s when I knew I wanted to be a police officer.”

Flash forward more than 30 years, Gonzalez has just been elected to be Precinct 3 Constable, watching over the areas of San Benito, Rio Hondo, La Poloma, El Ranchito and Arroyo City. He took office in January.

Gonzalez has been in law enforcement since 2001. For the longest time, he worked with the San Benito school district as a drug enforcement canine officer.

Now that he is constable, he said he plans to make his office more accessible to the community.

“My responsibility is to the people that elected me,” he said. “The best thing I love about my job is being able to help people.”

In addition to bumping up patrols in certain areas of his jurisdiction, he has also made it a mission to change how the community sees law enforcement.

In his first 60 days in office, Gonzalez has implemented new requirements for his staff.

They are required to make contact with at least 10 people per shift. This he said puts a face to the badge.

For Gonzalez, he would like the community to see him and his staff more as guardians than as warriors.

“We’re trying to change people’s attitudes toward law enforcement,” he said.