Alexandria Police Foundation

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At a Northern Virginia high school, brotherhood and policing through soccer

The students were wary of the two new school resource officers.

Gary Argueta and Johnny Larios, each about a decade older than the teenagers who populate the halls of T.C. Williams High School in Northern Virginia, are Latino, like many of the recent immigrants who arrive at the school.

The teenagers “didn’t really know what to think about us,” Larios recalled.

It was a reticence the 29-year-old recognized from policing Chirilagua, a predominantly Hispanic neighborhood in Alexandria. There, residents’ fear of being questioned about their immigration status and experiences with corrupt law enforcement in other countriesdiscourages contact with police, he said.

Many adults Larios encounters as a police officer are already “dead set on their ways.” But he chose the profession to help steer people toward better choices. He figured working with teenagers, many of them from low-income families and new to the country, was one way. He just needed a path into their lives.

“What can we do to get these kids to see us more as friends, rather than cops?” Larios and Argueta asked themselves after arriving at T.C. Williams in the 2017-2018 school year.

The officers — members of the Alexandria police who are assigned to the high schoolsettled on a pastime they saw as universal and unifying: soccer.

 

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