Officer makes his presence felt at school

Thomas Garcia

The new school resource officer for the Tucumcari Public Schools made six arrests in the first three days on the job.

Since the program’s start on Tuesday, two juvenile students were arrested for outstanding district court warrants, and four juveniles were arrested for alcohol related crimes, said Jason Braziel, a Tucumcari Police Department officer who is serving as the schools’ resource officer.

“Teenage drinking is and has been a problem in Quay County and across the nation,” said Roger Hatcher, Tucumcari Police Chief on Friday.

For example, in Quay County, 38.1 percent of youth reported drinking before age 13, which is significantly higher than the national percentage of 23.8 percent, and 48.3 percent of the youth report drinking in the past month, compared with 43.2 percent of youth around the state, according to New Mexico’s 2007 Youth Risk & Resiliency Survey.

The arrests by the school resource officer shows the students that there are consequences to showing up to school drunk or under the influence of narcotics, Hatcher said.

The juveniles were released into the custody of their parents, Hatcher said, and they will have to go before juvenile probation.

Hatcher said that he is impressed with the number of arrests that Braziel has made in the first week. However, he does not want the students or public to get the wrong idea about why the officer is stationed at the schools.

“It is not officer Braziel’s or the department’s intention to storm into the schools and just start making arrests,” Hatcher said. “Jason is there in an official capacity. If someone breaks the law, he cannot and will not ignore it.”

Hatcher said that Braziel has been assigned to patrol the schools and to provide a positive police presence at the schools. “This will give students a chance to associate with Jason on a personal and professional level,” Hatcher said.

“One of our goals is to change the teens’ perception about the police,” Braziel said. “Most of the time when people have contact with an officer it is because they were involved in or were a victim of a crime.”

“Officer Braziel is a great addition to the school’s staff,” said David Castillo, principal of Tucumcari High School. “He interacts with the students and brings a human factor to the uniform.”

Braziel said that the students’ response has been positive and friendly and so far there have been no problems. He said he is working to put a familiar face to law enforcement.

Hatcher said that the department would like to have Braziel conduct drug, alcohol and domestic violence awareness classes at the schools.

“This program has started off well with positive results for the first week,” Hatcher said.

Hatcher said he also expected the officer’s presence at the school campus to have a positive effect on the street, too.