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Latino LCSO Sergeant takes honor guard next-level

By La Prensa Staff

 

As the Lucas County Sheriff recruits 150 future corrections officers and deputies, a young Latino sergeant is hoping his unit can help in the effort, particularly by drawing more Latinos into law enforcement by setting a good example himself.

 

Sgt. Javier Martínez runs the operations side of the Honor Guard, which wears old-fashioned dress uniforms to serve at community events, funerals, color guard duties, and other public appearances. He lines up all the training activities and details of public appearances.

Sheriff John Tharp

 

“The honor guard is basically the hearts and minds and faces of the sheriff’s department,” said Martínez. “We go out and do many community events and represent the sheriff in a positive light any chance that we can.”

 

The honor guard uniforms are quite striking, complete with white gloves and all the pomp and circumstance that goes with formal and ceremonial activities. Martínez has the responsibility of making sure everyone is dressed properly, shoes shined, and all the right accoutrements in place.

 

“The uniform is quite unique in itself, because it may not be the most functional uniform,” he said. “However, we could still do our duties should we have to at any given time. It is a very dressy uniform, formal attire, not a working uniform, per se.”

 

The Mexican-American grew up near the corner of Lagrange and Page in North Toledo, then moved to California when he was 12. As a teen, he grew up in the San Bernardino area, in an environment where many Californians don’t have much respect for law enforcement. Until he turned 21, however, becoming a sheriff’s deputy was not an option.

 

So Martínez enlisted in the US Marines right after graduating high school and served a tour of duty in Iraq. Once he completed his military service, he returned to Toledo at age 26. Now the 40-year old afternoon shift supervisor at the Lucas County Jail wants to be more community-minded.

 

“Why not use the honor guard, since we’re the ones who are always out in the community. We’re always the ones interacting with the populous. Why not utilize them to do so,” he said. “We do have corrections officers on the honor guard, which is quite unique compared to the other honor guards in the area that only use police officers or deputies.”

 

Lucas County Sheriff John Tharp last fall lowered the age to serve as a corrections officer from 21 to 19. The hope is to draw more candidates to fill 100 vacant positions and train more corrections officers for when a new jail finally does open in the coming years. The department has had trouble recruiting viable candidates, even though a handful of job fairs have been held in recent months—including a two-day event on March 25 and 26 at the UAW Local 12 union hall on Ashland Ave.

 

“Just think about this: young people that are in high school, graduated from high school, they want to go into law enforcement, but they have to wait three years in order to even apply to go into law enforcement,” said Sheriff Tharp at a press conference last September.

The sheriff also is concerned that teens interested in a law enforcement career could find their way into trouble and run afoul of the law while they’re waiting for that opportunity.

 “A lot can happen to a person in three years. Life can go haywire for a person in three years. There are some young people that are in communities that are high-crime areas that are being pulled by individuals to deal drugs, pulled by individuals to commit crimes,” said Tharp.

That’s where success stories like Sgt. Martínez can come into play. He can share his own story.

 

“When you’re young, you don’t know if you’re poor. You don’t know if you’re impoverished,” he said. “You just live life. Maybe as you get older, you realize some of those things. But I was raised with lots of love and encouragement, focused on bettering myself and not letting my circumstances dictate the outcome.”

 

If teens start as corrections officers, they can build worthwhile career experience while they wait until age 21 to enter the police academy to become a deputy sheriff or police officer. There’s also concern that a police department or sheriff’s office should reflect the community it serves, so Sgt. Martinez can help recruit other young Latinos as someone who looks like them.

 

“It’s humbling, because I really don’t think about it like that. As a Mexican-American, you can take very good pride in the way we present and how we raise our children and how we interact with the community,” he said. “If I can do it, anybody else can do it. I know how much time my parents and my aunts and my uncles and the community around me helped to raise me and to guide me into the person that I am.”

 

Martínez will celebrate a 12th wedding anniversary this year with his wife Jackie. The couple has three sons, ages 19, 8, and 5. They now live in West Toledo. His career success can act as a shining example to young Latinos in an era of high-profile police brutality cases and officer-involved shootings that have tarnished the image of law enforcement as a worthwhile career.

 

“If you might look at it as to how possibly your family may look at you (as a law enforcement officer), then do it for yourself,” he advised. “When you do this type of job, you do it because you have something inside of you that you want to better yourself, you want to do more than (what you currently are doing).”

 

Martínez believes, overall, front-line officers and staff can have the best conversations with potential recruits.

 

“I think that, in the recruitment process, we can answer a lot of questions because we are the men and women that do the day-to-day operations,” he said. “Should they have real questions, we can give them real answers. We can give them solid looks, like ‘I know it will be hard at the beginning, but the overall [effort] is better for you.’”

 

A listing of available positions and online application is available at www.co.lucas.oh.us/jobs.

 

 

 

 

 

 
Copyright © 1989 to 2019 by [LaPrensa Publications Inc.]. All rights reserved.
Revised: 03/26/19 13:30:48 -0800.

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