By Tracey Abarca
Deputy Humberto Barragan is not only dedicated in keeping students safe at East Los Angeles College,but also being there when a student needs someone to talk to.
Deputy Barragan has been at ELAC for six months. He came to help Deputy Velasco, who was team leader at the time. Deputy Velasco left and is now working at Valley College. Deputy Barragan now resumes the position as team leader.
In the small amount of time that Barragan has been at ELAC, he has made many improvements. Barragan said, “So far people are listening to what I’m asking.”
For example he’s installed 178 cameras all around campus. There will be live footage of what is happening, making law enforcement aware.
He has also increased the lighting in the B bungalows. When he came to ELAC he said the lighting was horrible.
He’s also asked for some more carts to increase patrol time around campus. Those carts would be able to get through passages that vehicles can’t get through. As of now there are two new carts.
Claire Floria, Sr. Office Assistant, at the sheriff’s department said, “For the short amount of time that he’s been here, he’s accomplished a lot.”
She also said he’s gotten things done and moving in the right direction. She agreed that people respect him and see improvements, not only in the sheriff’s station but on campus too.
Barragan, 45, has been in the field for 15 years. He’s only worked for community colleges for four-and-a-half years. Before that he has worked a number of years at the Lakewood, Bellflower, Hawaiian Gardens, Artesia and Paramount stations.
Deputy Barragan was born in Mexico and came to California at 9 years old. He was raised in south central Los Angeles with six other siblings. He said his parents were good role models.
They were laborers they set the right tone and example for all six children, who all are doing something productive in their life. His parents were very strict and he would get a “whooping” every so often.
The reason he wanted to be a sheriff was because when he was younger people from the Hispanic community did not understand when they were encountered with law enforcement. They did things that in their culture are okay to do, but can be perceived as illegal in the state of California.
He felt that he wanted to explain to them what they are doing is wrong. He is aware of the culture and that some people don’t do it out of hatred or violence but because that’s the way they were brought up.
Barragan went to the Sheriff’s Academy. Although he started his career a little later than others, at the age of 30. He believes he built up a good skill set before he became a deputy.
In the near future Barragan would like to be promoted to at least a sergeant and supervise other deputies, but as of now he only has one thing in mind and that is to provide a service.
His first job was working at the Century Regional Detention Center in Lynwood. CRD was not like other jails. Inmates had direct supervision. At the time Barragan did not know how to be responsible of so many inmates in a confined area.
Deputies had to walk among them, rubbing shoulders, talking to them. “There’s guys in there for murder, rape, you name it,” said Barragan.
Barragan said interacting with inmates helped him when it was necessary for him to use force. That helped him when it came to force. He believes in only using force when it is necessary.
Barragan said, “You have a large podium or desk as you may call it. And we have a monitor there for a computer. The only thing separating you from the inmates is the red line on the floor.”
There have been many times when Barragan felt his life was in danger whether because he was not in the safest environment. He would assess and re-assess the situation to make a better call. He has never been in a situation that would require using a deadly force.
Barragan believes using a deadly force is the last option. “If I can keep this gun holstered, that’s where it’s going to stay,” Barragan said.
When he feels it’s no longer necessary, Barragan thinks it’s just a tool in his belt that he can put away.
He thinks that his main tool is the ability to communicate effectively with people.
He said that one is the architect of one’s destiny. There are two paths an easy one where one can join a gang and most likely be incarcerated or dead before being 25, and another path that is slightly harder but leads to a better life, and that’s the one he chose.
He never made a lot of friends. He always stuck to a small group, whom he still sees on occasion.
Barragan will stay at ELAC until his captain tells him otherwise. He likes the campus because it’s a nice environment and believes students are serious about their education.
There are minor issues but it’s unlike other campuses. He’s always out and about, and only at his desk replying to emails about concerns staff has for upcoming events or administrative matters.
If he sees a student that looks a little down he’ll go up to them and ask if they are okay.
He said the atmosphere is different because they don’t have a lot of pressure or calls, unless they’re coming from the campus. He’s never in a rush to dismiss anyone. If a person needs a bit of counseling, he will be glad to help anyone who seeks it.
He’s the same person in or out of the uniform. For example when he pulls over a kid in the middle of the night he would talk to them as if he were talking to his children.
Students don’t have to like him or say hi back, but he wants students to respect the uniform he wears, and respect him as well.