For This Officer, Smiles Are A Big Reward

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Officer Javier Arteaga holds a puppy in his squad car
Deputy Sheriff Javier Arteaga loves his job — especially when it involves puppies. (Credit: Courtesy Javier Arteaga)

Being a deputy sheriff is challenging work, but what makes it worthwhile is the opportunity to bring a smile to someone's face, says Javier Arteaga. 

Arteaga has been employed by Merced County Sheriff's Office in California for 13 years. Before that, he was a correctional officer for 10 years and laterally transferred to become a deputy sheriff three years ago.

Why did you get into this line of work?

As a teen I dreamed of being a correctional officer and working inside of a maximum-security prison. I grew interested in working around supplicated and violent prisoners and learning how and what they did to end up behind bars.

In 2018, my administration offered me the opportunity that would change my life. They sponsored me to attend the police academy. I successfully graduated and became a deputy sheriff.

I’m currently assigned to Merced Sheriff’s Office Supervised Release Team (SRT).

What does a typical day as an officer look like?

A typical day in the office involves supervising inmates on home arrest, searching for wanted fugitives, and investigating all crimes that occur within our county jails.

What do you like most about your job? And least?

I like to solve problems and help those in need. I enjoy educating teens about street gangs and the negative impact that lifestyle will have on their lives.

The most challenging part of my job is the rapidly changing technology. It’s sometimes challenging for me to keep up with all the new software updates.

What’s the most common misconception about police work?

A lot of people see police officers and think something bad has happened. That’s not always the case. Law enforcement agencies participate in many school functions and family activities such as toy drives and career days at high schools.

What do you wish you knew about the job before you got into it?

The job comes with some stress and long work hours, but there’s nothing more satisfying than getting home to your loved ones.

How did you train for this job?

I graduated from San Joaquin Valley College in 2007 with an associate degree in criminal justice and science and standards & training for corrections (STC). I also attended the Stanislaus Regional Training Division where I completed my peace officer standards and training (POSt).

What personality traits or qualities would make someone a good fit for this job?

Anyone with good public skills and leadership skills is a great fit for the position.

What are some of the risks and rewards of police work?

There are many risks in all careers, but in this line of work, you will be challenged every day. Your safety, your partner’s safety and the public’s safety are your priority. The biggest rewards come when you put a smile on the face of a victim after they see you, and you help them with whatever problem they may have.

Is there a time when you felt your job made a real impact on someone’s life?

On one occasion, I was dispatched to a suspicious vehicle near the train tracks. The caller stated they saw a woman walking up and down the train tracks. When I arrived, the young lady was inside the vehicle and seemed very distraught. After speaking to her, I learned she was having a bad time with her home life. I told her I was here to help her and could get her specialized assistance. Before leaving, she gave me a hug and thanked me for showing up.

Why would you recommend that someone go into police work?

This career has endless opportunities. You can be a school resource officer, detective or criminal investigator, task force officer, traffic officer or a community officer. This career is never boring, and there’s always something to do.

Can you describe one particular moment or day on the job that gave you real satisfaction?

When I was a young correctional officer, I prevented an escape from one of our county jails. Several inmates were plotting to escape the jail by cutting a hole in the sheet rock ceiling and breaking through the roof. I was able to see and find the cuts within the sheet rock after a routine area check.

If you weren’t in your current industry, what would you be doing?

If I wasn’t a deputy sheriff, I could see myself working in a high school and coaching soccer.

What’s the nicest thing anyone has ever said to you about your work?

I often hear “Thank you for your service,” but when someone tells me “Thank you for showing up,” that’s by far the best thing someone has told me after a call for service.

Where do you see yourself in five to 10 years?

I hope 10 years from now, I will have accomplished all my goals as a deputy sheriff and have moved into a supervisor position to guide and teach others what I’ve learned.


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