Student serving on police force

By Argen Duncan: PNT senior writer

From patrol to dispatch to animal control, a Portales college student is observing law enforcement up close and personal.

Jessica Pacheco, a senior in criminal justice at Eastern New Mexico University, is serving as an intern with the Portales Police Department. She aims to become an officer, but hasn’t decided where to work.

“I always wanted to be a police officer since I could remember,” Pacheco said.

The job appeals to her because no two days are the same and she wouldn’t have to sit behind a desk all day, she said.

Pacheco has been spending about 30 hours a week at the police department, observing in dispatch for two days, riding with patrol officers for two days and shadowing animal control officers for one day.

“I love it,” she said. “It makes me want to be a police officer even more.”

Portales Police Deputy Chief Lonnie Berry said Pacheco is doing well and quickly takes to everything to which she’s exposed.

“She’s been very interested, and she’s put a lot — a lot — of time and effort into completing her internship,” Berry said.

Pacheco has worked to learn, and the officers take to that, he said.

Berry said the department tends to have two interns per semester.

Since her internship began Jan. 14, Pacheco said she has learned general information such as terminology, radio codes and officer safety procedures. Her favorite area is patrol.

“I enjoy being around the officers,” she said. “A lot of good guys. They’re just very informative, very resourceful.”

After graduating in May, Pacheco said, she will need to decide where to go, pass tests to be hired and attend the proper academy. She wants to work in patrol, learn the job and see where it takes her.

Pacheco expects the hardest part of her work to be seeing mistreated children, and she thinks a rewarding aspect would be serving as a positive role model.

She said the danger of being a police officer is a concern, but people going into the field know what they’re facing.

“But if I spent all my time worrying about it, I wouldn’t get anything done,” Pacheco said.

Pacheco’s parents would prefer her to go into a line of work that didn’t require her to handle firearms and be around dangerous people, but she said they would support her in whatever path she took.

Even though women are often a minority in law enforcement agencies, Pacheco said she hasn’t had a problem with sexism and isn’t concerned about it. If anyone thinks she can’t do the job as well as a man, “that’s their opinion, not mine,” she said.

ENMU requires an internship for Pacheco to complete her degree, but she thinks it’s good because it allows students to see if police work is the right path for them. She hopes to continue riding with officers even after her internship ends.