RRHS Law and Public Safety Students “REP”

RRHS Law and Public Safety Students “REP” as They Prepare for Careers in Law Enforcement
Posted on 09/22/2022
RRHS Law Enforcement Students

RRHS Law and Public Safety Students “REP” as They Prepare for Careers in Law Enforcement

By: Loree Johnson

Photo courtesy of RRHS Photography Club

Caption of photo: RRHS Law and Public Safety Students

“You have the right to remain silent. Anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law.” The “officer” informs the “perpetrator” of his rights. What crime has been committed? None at all. This is role play between students in the Rio Rico High School Law and Public Safety program, which epitomizes RRHS core values of Relationships, Excellence, and Pride.

The three year program, which includes both classes and a club, prepares students for a career in law enforcement and provides up to six college credits through collaboration with the Pima Community College Dual Enrollment program. 

Jimmy Navarro, teacher of the program since 2008, said, “The program has guided our students to obtain direct employment and eventually start a career in law enforcement. I like seeing the transformation from student to law enforcement officer.”  

The program begins the sophomore year. Through a combination of book study and lectures, students learn the legal aspects of Law and Public Safety: an introduction to the legal system, the U.S. Constitutional amendments, the history of law enforcement, the Arizona  revised statutes, and the prison system. 

During the junior year, in Administration of Justice 101, students have the opportunity to practice law enforcement techniques with the help of former students and active law enforcement officers and earn three college credits 

According to Veronika Ramos, 12th grade student and club president, this is when they begin “hands-on training.” They learn skills such as how to execute traffic stops, investigate crime scenes, handle domestic disputes, and conduct interviews/interrogation. 

This is the part of the program that students particularly enjoy. Ivanna Garcia, 12th grade student and one of two club vice presidents, said that the hands-on training is very informative. She “loves” interacting with the law enforcement officers and appreciates the “positive criticism” they provide. 

During their senior year, students take Administration of Justice 109 where they do everything the juniors do but also participate in an internship program after school with the opportunity to observe experienced Santa Cruz County law enforcement officers handling a variety of situations and learn communication and dispatch skills. They are fingerprinted through the Department of Public Safety and may apply for their unarmed Security Guard licenses. They earn another three college credits and have the opportunity to apply for direct employment in a variety of law enforcement positions.

Sabrina Ceja, 12th grade student and the other vice president of the club, especially appreciates this aspect of the program. She stated, “The club and class prepare us for life after high school and give us a variety of opportunities.”

All students from sophomores to seniors have the opportunity to participate in the Law Enforcement Club that is just one Career and Technical Education Student Organization (CTSO) club offered at RRHS. Joining the club is optional, but students must be part of the club to wear the Law and Public Safety uniform. In addition to the uniform, students are issued a variety of equipment: duty belts, handcuffs, radios, blue training guns, training tasers, and flashlights 

They engage in simulation scenarios, watching crimes in progress and determining the proper procedure. They have to learn the Rio Rico Law Enforcement Use of Force Model, in which they learn what level of force they have to use for various situations. It is always preferable to de-escalate a situation but to know when and how to use force if absolutely necessary. 

Several students said this was the part of the training that surprised them the most. 

Garcia said she was surprised at “how careful you have to be.” 

Ramos said that communication is very important: “You have to learn phrasing, know how to read body language, and be aware of surroundings.” She emphasized the danger of “tunnel vision.”

Through the club, students engage in work-based learning and participate in a variety of community service opportunities. Jorge Moreno, RRHS CTE Coordinator explained that Mr. Navarro “supports the community Boys and Girls Club, participates in community parades, and district activities by providing security and parking assistance.” For example, students had the opportunity to assist during the much anticipated football game between the RRHS Hawks and the Nogales High School Apaches on September 2nd. 

Students also participate in a variety of competitions, some through Pima County JTED, which is the main source of funding for the RRHS program. Kazandra Navarro, 12th grade student and one of two club treasurers explains: “It all starts with an internal competition between club members. Then, the winners go to regionals. If we win, state follows, and it goes all the way up to the national level. Through these competitions, you gain a lot of experience and improve your skills.”

Navarro said of the overall experience: “You get to build a family with the members of this program, and we push each other to improve in order to bring the best out in each and every one of us. This program has built us to be leaders.”

Officer Andres Estrella,  Deputy Sheriff with the Santa Cruz Sheriff Office and 2017 RRHS graduate, participated in what used to be a four year  program at the high school and used his training to become a police officer. 

One fond memory is participation in competitions during his time in the program. He said that he and his peers came in first place in a JTED competition, which they were particularly proud of because they were a bit intimidated by the Tucson participants.

His senior year, Mr. Navarro informed him and another student that the Santa Cruz County Jail was hiring and asked them if they were interested. 

As a result, Estrella was hired, and after completing intensive training and work at the jail, attended a seven week training program at the Department of Corrections in Tucson. Within the relatively short period of time since his graduation, Estrella has been promoted from supervisor and lead officer, to corporal, to the position he currently holds of Deputy Sheriff patrol officer. 

Estrella praised the RRHS program and Navarro’s work as the instructor. When Navarro asked him to return to participate in hands-on training with students, he said it was “an honor to be there teaching students,” remembering what it felt like to be there himself.

With regard to his participation in the program and his career path, he stated, “It is a wonderful program to have at the school”  and is gratified that it led him “to serve the people of the community I was born in.”

Ramos, Garcia, Ceja, and Kazandra Navarro all plan to pursue careers in law enforcement. Ramos plans to join the U.S. Army after she graduates, ultimately becoming a Customs and Border Protection officer; Garcia plans to join Border Patrol or Border Patrol Search, Trauma, and Rescue (BORSTAR); Ceja plans to pursue a career in law either as an officer or lawyer; and Navarro plans to pursue a career in either criminal justice or social work.

Mr. Moreno said of the program, “Mr. Navarro has assembled a quality Law and Public Safety program by putting together several opportunities and experiences for students to be successful after graduation. . . The Law and Public Safety program supports our CTE vision for students successfully transitioning from high school to a post-secondary or career opportunity.”