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Working for You: Hillsboro's Victor Castro, Police Department Detective
"When kids ask what I do, I tell them that I help families stay safe. Yes, I do take bad guys to jail."
Years you've worked for Hillsboro:
18 years — including 14 years as a School Resource Officer serving the schools that feed Hillsboro High School.
Where have you lived?
I grew up in Southern California, then moved north to Hillsboro in 2000.
How did you come to work in Hillsboro?
I was ready for a change after working for six years in gangs and narcotics for the Los Angeles Police Department. However, I knew that if I made a move, I should do it while I was still a young officer and find a department where I could grow. Something about the climate and the quality of life drew me to the Pacific Northwest.
After someone told me Hillsboro was hiring, I met with a Hillsboro Police Corporal. He told me that the department needed Spanish speakers for the growing community’s large Latino population, and he said they could use someone with knowledge of drugs and gangs. He also told me about the potential for growth in Hillsboro. During a ride-along with a patrol officer, I decided it felt right and applied.
I have had no regrets since former Police Chief Ron Louie hired me. After everything I’ve been through personally and professionally, I believe I was meant to be here. Hillsboro has been very good to me. I can’t say enough about the Hillsboro Police Department and how well I’ve been treated.
What drew you from your work as a School Resource Officer (SRO) to your current role?
I enjoyed my time as an SRO and thank the counselors and teachers who mentored me. Teaming law enforcement with schools is the best way to resolve issues or challenges with students.
When called on to deal with students involved with bad behaviors, the key for me as an SRO was to be quiet and listen to the kids. I found that the behavior was often tied to the home dynamics where there was disruption, violence, and chaos.
I never thought I’d leave the schools, but I told one of my former sergeants, if I ever left, I would consider working to help victims of domestic violence. When the opportunity came up, it seemed like a natural move and transition.
I work at the Family Justice Center of Washington County, a one-stop shop for support, information, and services on domestic violence. This safe facility in Beaverton opened last spring. A navigator helps connect people to the services they need including: restraining orders, legal support, counseling, housing, food, financial, crime reporting, safety planning, and more. Advocates help clients fill out the required paperwork.
Dealing with the darkness of domestic violence investigations is challenging. One of the things that drew me to domestic violence work was focusing on the aftercare to help the survivor and kids heal. With the parent’s permission, I use my connections with principals and counselors to help get their kid extra eyes, TLC, and support. Some people are resistant sometimes, but we all need help sometimes.
Being a Spanish speaker has been a huge plus. I’ve been able to follow up on many domestic violence cases with a language barrier. As a result, I’ve been able to get additional charges sometimes against the perpetrator to hold them accountable for a history of abuse.
Victor, you’ve received many honors during your career. This includes being the first police officer ever to win the Oregon Association of Latino Administrators (OALA) Distinguished Latino Educator Award in February 2018. What are you most proud of in your work?
I appreciate those accolades, but being a police officer is my call to service. The kids I worked with are the ones who deserve the awards.
One case, in particular, stands out from my first year as a School Resource Officer. In my very first D.A.R.E. (Drug Abuse Resistance Education) class, I had a great group of kiddos who I adore at Peter Boscoe Elementary School. D.A.R.E. training also taught me about the value of building relationships with students. My goal was to make each of those kids feel worthy and loved, and that they were significant. I wanted them to remember me and how I made them feel.
A few years later, I taught G.R.E.A.T. (Gang Resistance Education and Training) lessons to the same group of kids. I got called in to investigate one of the kiddos in my first DARE class, who tagged graffiti in the middle school bathroom. He was a good kid who made a goofy mistake. I remember he was embarrassed, crying, and upset. The school wanted me to investigate and possibly pursue charges. Instead, I worked out a deal with the school, parent, and student to avoid an arrest and a criminal record.
I told the boy, “I could arrest you, but I know you’re a good kid who messed up. Also, I appreciate that you’re artistic, but it’s not OK to do it on others’ property. You are going to serve as my assistant at a summer camp for kids as community service. They won’t know anything about you, or that you committed a crime. I want them to see that you are an awesome person. To be the best you, I will even let you lead one of the art lessons. You can’t get in any more trouble at school or home. Can you do that?”
He said yes. The kids gravitated to him like he was a rock star at camp that summer. He even led the kids in a project to make a mask.
I reminded him that he was more than the action he did. He did well throughout the rest of middle school, which is the toughest age. We lost touch during high school, but I got an email from him, out of the blue, inviting me to his high school graduation. He wrote, “I want to thank you for what you did for me and for giving me a chance. I look to you as a father. It meant a lot to me.”
I had kept his mask art project from years ago because I used it as a model. I framed it and gave it to him at his graduation. After I told him how proud I was of him, I learned he was going to art school.
A few years later, I got a text from him that he was graduating from the Portland Art Institute. I went and got very emotional to see a boy I knew from 5th grade to his early 20s. We still stay in touch. What an honor it is that he thought that much of me. That is the ultimate reward for me. Knowing that I might have made an impact on someone’s life.
What do you do for fun?
I’m a fair weather Harley Davidson rider. In the fall, I take day trips. One of my favorite areas to go out to is the Estacada/Sandy area and Boring, especially in the fall it is amazing. I like doing yard work — pulling weeds and cutting grass. I’m involved in my church as a hospitality minister.
I also love art. I relax and unwind by coloring with markers in adult coloring books and have some funny ones. Also, I paint Mexican-inspired designs on terra cotta pots.
I love going to movies — horror, supernatural, comedy, action — and even if it’s not that great, the popcorn is always good. Also, I watch soap operas in Spanish. I enjoy them because they end after a season and use A-list actors from Latin America. My current favorite telenovela, La Patrona (The Boss), has a female villain with a simple plot with greed and power.
Fun fact from Victor:
Before I became a police officer, I used to cut hair. I like doing men’s cuts, especially fades. Right out of high school, I was encouraged to give it a shot because it’s creative and I like working with people. I did that for almost 10 years, right up until I got hired by the Los Angeles Police Department.
Even when I was a cop in LA, I always kept my license, so I could go back behind the chair if it didn’t work out. Cutting hair helped me learn customer service and how to be a good listener and communicator. It groomed me for law enforcement.
I recently studied for seven months — because I’m the worst test-taker — to take the written tests to get licensed in Oregon. My goal is to retire in 2020 and return to cutting hair. I chose 2020 because I moved to Hillsboro in 2000, just as the Hillsboro 2020 Vision & Action Plan was created.
Victor's Hillsboro favorites:
- Community events: Hillsboro Saturday Farmers' Market and 4th of July Parade
- Park: Shute Park
- Restaurants: Taqueria Ochoas, Sushi and Maki, and Kokiyo Teriyaki
- Dish: Carnitas at Taqueria Ochoas
- Area of town: Downtown
What advice would you share with Hillsboro residents?
Be real. Be you. Remember how wonderful you are. Speak from the heart.
What Victor's coworkers say about him:
“Victor is one of the best police officers I have had the opportunity to work with. He is kind, sincere, and well-spoken. As an investigator, he is tenacious. He goes above and beyond for his victims and is always willing to help. Although very good at what he does, there is one area where I feel Victor has excelled and that is in our Youth Services Division. Victor cares about kids and will do whatever is needed to help and make sure each child he comes into contact with experiences some sort of success. He is an amazing man and police officer! A guy you can always count on.”
- Commander John Schmerber, Hillsboro Police Department
Read other Working for You profiles of Hillsboro's employees:
- Joel Jose Camacho Ramirez, Senior Parks Maintenance Technician
- Kristi Wilson, Workforce Development Coordinator
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