Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Officer Rene Nuñez started working with the program last year. He was partnered up with a teen for a culinary workshop.
To help establish trust and a bond, Nuñez said he dressed in plain clothes the whole week instead of being in uniform. The teen did not actually have any idea he was a police officer.
Nuñez said a lot of the teens involved have had negative experiences with police officers. On the last day of the week, he wore his uniform. He said when the teenager saw him, the teen was in disbelief.
“I felt a little bad because it was like a betrayal almost,” Nuñez said. “I could feel it, he was kind of torn apart.”
He said the teen told him, “You’re too cool to be a police officer.”
Nuñez said the teen hated police officers. The teen’s initial impression of him was not shattered. The teen did not know what to think, Nuñez recalled
“I responded to him, ‘Well, you thought I was a cool guy up until a couple of seconds ago. So what’s the difference?’” Nuñez asked. “I’m still the same person, I’m just wearing this uniform.”
Nuñez said the teen came over and hugged him. It really hit Nuñez hard when the teen started crying.
“I was sold on the program after that,” Nuñez said. He is back again to help this year.