I have regaled readers of this blog with occasional tales of the triumphs I have scored since my daily journalism career came to an end more than a decade ago.
However, it hasn’t been all smooth sailing. I signed on to a job that didn’t go well, and I want to share that experience with you here.
The Randall County Youth Center of the High Plains hired me as a juvenile supervision officer in 2013. I lasted six months in that job.
The center is what we used to call “detention” or “reform school” in the old days. It’s for children who run afoul of the law. Some of them are in there because of dumbass mistakes. Others are in there because they’re, well, deeply troubled youngsters.
It’s a tension-filled job.
The JSOs are trained to do many things and they have many specific procedures they must follow. If a kid gets sick, you must administer medicine by the book … or else. JSOs must fill out reams of paperwork to chronicle every single incident that occurs on their watch.
I worked with some fine officers. Most of them treated me with respect, given that I was by far the oldest among them.
One guy, though, the second in command at the youth center, apparently opposed my hiring. He would bristle visibly when I entered a room. He didn’t like me. It might have been that I am a “media guy” and many in law enforcement distrust those who pursue my craft.
One night, a teenager was acting up; he was one of the older kids, around 17 years of age. I started to discipline him, by sending him to “time out.” The kid decided he wanted to fight me. He untucked his shirt and called me a series of obscenities.
I froze. I didn’t respond the way I was supposed to respond. I called for assistance. Other JSOs rushed in. One of them wrestled with the kid, seeking to restrain him. I stood over the kid and tried to talk him down. He yelled, “F*** you, old man!”
The kid was restrained. He was sent to isolation to cool off. My shift ended and I went home, but after being lectured by my supervisor.
Two days later, I got called into the No. 2 guy’s office. He read me the riot act … and then fired me. All I said was, “Well, so it’s one strike and I’m out, right?” Then I left. I figure the guy who didn’t want me there was looking for a reason to fire me — and I gave it to him.
As I look back on that gig, I am grateful that he canned me. Every aspect of life teaches us lessons. I learned from that experience that am not cut out for the task for which I had been hired. It takes a special person to do that kind of work; I am not one of ’em. For one thing, I was too old to be fighting a strapping teenager; hey, I didn’t want to get my butt kicked … you know?
I hope my former colleagues are well and have retained their sanity. As for the kid who wanted to fight me that night … I hope he’s still among us and has grown into a productive adult.