By ERIC A. HOWALD
Of the Keizertimes
Oregon State Trooper Cristian Cuevas was only called in to meet with his high school counselor once, and it remains something of a sore point.
“They only wanted to ask me why I wasn’t picking up my free bus passes,” said Cuevas at Inglesia Luz Del Valle Church in Keizer Thursday, Nov. 17.
Cuevas took part in a outreach event at the church on Dearborn Avenue Northeast intended to connect local Latino youth with potential job opportunities in law enforcement. Rev. Jose Dominguez arranged the gathering, which drew about three dozen attendees, as a follow-up to a community event in August to talk about community relations with local law enforcement.
One of the concerns that arose from the earlier conversation was the lack of diversity among the local law enforcement while minority populations continue to grow.
Cuevas, a native of Chile, talked about his path to the Oregon State Police, which he felt was probably reflected in the experience of today’s youth.
“I wish my councilor had brought me in to talk about the opportunities I might have had rather than free bus passes. I had a job at Albertsons and I paid for my bus pass every month,” Cuevas said. “That wasn’t the type of help I needed.”
Cuevas earned his diploma and joined the U.S. Marine Corps before finally making his way into law enforcement. Becoming an OSP trooper does not require a college degree, and Cuevas said his background paved the way to success in the job. He could read and write well in English and being bilingual earns him a 5 percent bonus in his check each payday.
“My ability to speak Spanish has prevented people from going to jail,” Cuevas said.
The lesson he encouraged attendees to take away from the night applied to even those looking for careers outside of law enforcement.
“You have to be your own advocate. You have to be proactive,” he said.
Trooper Tiffany Linn outlined the process for becoming a state trooper, which can be lengthy, but may lead to a wide range of opportunities.
“The process takes about 32 to 35 weeks, but that includes a rigorous background check that takes time,” she said.
In addition to becoming a trooper patrolling the highways and just about any other area in the state, assignments are available in forensics, SWAT, criminal, explosives, K-9, lottery enforcement, tribal gaming and dispatch, Linn said. For more information about what it takes to become and OSP trooper, visit www.osptrooper.com.
The number of opportunities is also growing, said Eriks Gabliks, director of the Department of Public Safety Standards and Training, which trains and certifies most public safety employees throughout the state.
“In the next two or three years, we expect to be hiring at least 1,000 officers and maybe as many as 2,000,” Gabliks said.