BY Jett Millican
If you’ve had your eyes open this year you may have probably seen a new, badge wearing, vest toting smile around the Jenks High School. His name is Officer Gabriel Castellano, and he is one of the new Jenks Campus Police Officers. Castellano has been a police officer for almost 7 years, he completed his training at academies in both Ada and Wetumka, Oklahoma, and has worked at departments such as Muskogee PD.
“I was filling out tons of applications, trying to get a police job, since I was freshly a full time certified,” says Castellano. “I got the call about this job…I was very hesitant. I mulled it over a little bit…it evolved into me actually wanting the job.”
Castellano started working at Jenks during the teacher walkout last year. He first got a job as a regular patrol officer for Jenks Campo, meaning he had to travel between all the Jenks campuses, just like all the other officers.
“Over the summer, it got brought up, this position, stationary here on the High School Campus. I started asking the guys, ‘What’s this all about?’ I prayed about it,” says Castellano.
After being intrigued by the idea of a new position, Castellano went and talked to Chief of Campus Police, Jason Smith. Smith told Castellano about the details of the new position, and once again Castellano prayed to see if this new position would be a good fit for himself, and in the end, he decided to take it.
“I became a 10 month employee… I’m off summers like the teachers, and some other cool stuff, there’s a lot of hidden perks that I didn’t know about until I took the job,” says Castellano.
Castellano says that he was scared initially, due to the large amount of watchful eyes, and the amount of vigilance that it would take on his own part.
“I’m on point majority of my shift because something could happen at any time. It was overwhelming at first but I’m warming up to it. I’m getting an understanding of what I need to be doing, and where I need to be,” says Castellano. “It’s tough being surrounded. As a regular cop you can go out there, and you can drive and you can patrol, and you can kind of wait for trouble to find you.”
Castellano has learned to enjoy the aspects of his job. From the hard work and business side of it all, to the social aspect of the job.
“As a campus cop, I have to do obviously law enforcement, but also administration duties too. I’m going to help [kids] just like a teacher would, but if I hear gunfire over here, I’ve got to run and take care of that,” says Castellano. “Its a dual purpose, dual role job. I’m also realizing that there are other aspects to it as well, because kids are coming to me about, you know problems at home. I want the kids to be able to trust me and talk about whatever’s going on.”
One of the most rewarding parts of Castellano’s job is the bonds that he forms with his students. He describes the best part of his job as seeing the trust growing between him and the students. Castellano wants all students to be able to feel comfortable to come talk to him about their problems.
“The main mission of my position is to, gain trust, to help kids not hate cops, which is what they see on TV and music and stuff. We’re not just here to write tickets. I’m here to help you with a boyfriend problem just as much as I am if there was someone trying to harm you,” says Castellano. “ The role of a police officer is to protect and serve, and the public view of that can be highly skewed. You see video footage of something dastardly like a cop having to shoot somebody, and maybe you don’t see the whole video, or what led up to it, and you think, ‘Man cops are terrible.’”
Castellano has been known to sit in on classes and observe and hangout, just to prove that he isn’t here at Jenks to harass students. Castellano is here to help with anything he can.
“You’re welcome to ask me anything at anytime, just holler at me,” says Castellano. “The kids are responding better than I thought they would. I’ve grown to really take to you guys personally. I’ve noticed that I am very protective when people talk about Jenks, or the school, or especially my kids. I’ve come into the pride aspect of it, I’m still learning and I always will.
If you get the opportunity, be sure to introduce yourself and make Officer Castellano welcome to Jenks.