Modesto Corrections graduate reflects on 10 years working in the Sheriff’s Department
Javier (Javy) Arteaga spent a few years jumping from job to job in California’s Central Valley. He mixed formulas for a feed company, worked on a forklift in a warehouse and had a few other good-for-right-now kinds of jobs. “I was young and anything steady that made some money was good for me,” he says.
In the back of his mind was an idea he’d had since he was a kid and watched a lot of TV shows about the good guys versus the bad guys. “Gangs were always my thing,” says Javy. “I wanted to learn about them, their criminal organization and purpose. Growing up in a rough neighborhood, I saw some of it but didn’t understand it. I just knew I wanted to be one of the good guys.”
By the time Javy was 22, things hadn’t developed much in his work life. “I wasn’t making much money where I was at,” he says. He was feeling restless in a way that another job-change wouldn’t fix.
That night changed Javy’s life. “I was a little nervous and didn’t ask questions,” he says. “But I was fascinated. These guys were in uniform and looked very professional. I thought, ‘I want to be one of those.’ I spoke with a counselor and was on board right away.”
The decision was easy. The sacrifices it took to make it happen came a little harder.
Even though Javy’s young family and parents were behind him 100%, the logistics of balancing his evening classes with full-time employment, the commute to campus, homework and a home life, made for many stressful days – many that started at 5:00 a.m. and ended at midnight.
Javy was surprised to find lots of support at school. “The instructors were great,” he remembers. “They gave extra tutoring on specific material and reminded us that if you can handle the pressure, it’s going to make you a much better deputy or officer.”
Criminal Justice Corrections Program Director Donald Martin was a strong influence on Javy. “His background and knowledge, the way he talked and made you understand something and – of course – the pushing, even when you were giving 100%. I enjoyed going to class every day, even after working a 10-hour day.”
It was a new and unfamiliar world for Javy.
“Nobody in my family ever graduated from college or had any law enforcement experience, so everything was a surprise to me,” says Javy. “I didn’t know it was going to be as hard as it was, but being hungry for it, wanting it, made it a positive environment.”
Javy especially enjoyed the physicality of the Corrections program. “I had a lot of fun with the physical training portion,” he says. “The tactical part, going out to the range and shooting a gun for the first time in my life. The take-downs were the most fun. It got pretty competitive because we all wanted to stand out,” he laughs. “A few times the instructor had to say, ‘OK, you guys need to chill out.’”
When Javy got closer to the completion of his program, he found even more support from SJVC. “They don’t just give you your degree and cut you loose,” he says. “They help you set up your resume, show you how to find county websites on the internet and fill out your applications. Donald Martin took his personal time to do mock interviews with me. Who does that!”
It all paid off when Javy graduated in 2007. “Javier Arteaga went right to work for Merced County Sheriff’s as a Correctional Deputy,” says Donald Martin. “He completed the remainder of his POST (Peace Officer Standards Training) and started on the patrol side. He turned down the promotion of sergeant to complete patrol training. He has come back as a guest speaker to field questions (from SJVC’s Corrections cadets) and give advice, as he also sat in the same seat on the same journey.”
Javy keeps an eye out for SJVC students who want to follow in his footsteps. “I give them an understanding of what to prepare for, what to expect,” he says. “SJVC students and graduates who submit applications are always in my top five that I would recommend to go forward. They not only present very well, they also have a lot of knowledge of what the duties entail.”
Many graduates of this program will take jobs as Correctional Officers (CO) in lock-up facilities. “These students know that a Correctional Officer is not just a guard. It is about providing these individuals (inmates) with services such as anger management and parenting classes, medical visits, GED classes. They don’t have the mentality that you’re there to punish them. I like to call it the triple C: Care, Custody and Confinement.”
In the 10 years Javy has worked as a Correctional Officer, he has seen it all and done it all. He was once sent to transfer an inmate who was banging his head against a wall to a safe cell. The inmate would not agree to cuff-up and challenged Javy to come in and get him. “This could have gone bad; there was the potential for someone to get hurt,” says Javy. Instead of jumping into an aggressive response, Javy spent time persuading the inmate that he needed medical attention. His calm was contagious and successful.
Javy demonstrates the level of training, knowledge and sensitivity that makes for an effective person in charge. He recently moved into a position as Deputy Sheriff for the Sheriff’s Department. He brings a strong work ethic with him.
His dad Jesus gave him the best example of that characteristic. “The man didn’t call in sick ever,” says Javy. “And he worked for the same place all his life.” Javy brings that same commitment and allegiance to work every day. “I’ve been with Merced County for 10 years now and wouldn’t want to work for any other place.”
Law enforcement has been the perfect career for Javy and has provided the life he planned for his fiancée Crystal and their kids Christopher, 12, and Paris, 13.
He has lived by his own good advice: “Know what you want, work hard, set a goal and once you accomplish it, set another goal. Help those that want to help. It will build your character.”
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