He doesn’t look like a Starbucks guy, let alone a Starbucks guy with a particular drink.

A venti matcha tea, made with water not milk, three scoops of matcha, two pumps of vanilla.

“I’m specific,” says Sgt. Pedro Chavez with the Valencia County Sheriff’s Office.

He orders the green tea concoction as he begins the night shift on Thursday, June 13.

In his 13th year with VCSO, Chavez was promoted to sergeant a year ago and is now a shift supervisor. His personal preparations for his 12 hours on duty go beyond caffeine.

“As a Catholic, I say a prayer before each shift. I pray that everybody goes home, both my coworkers and the public,” Chavez said.

As the shift supervisor, the sergeant checks in with the other three deputies on duty with him, making sure they are prepared mentally, emotionally and physically.

Coverage of unincorporated Valencia County is handled by four squads of four officers working two 12-hour shifts — day shift is 6:45 a.m. to 7 p.m., and the night shift from 6:45 p.m. to 7 a.m..

Two squads work Wednesday through Friday and alternating Saturdays, and the other two work Sunday through Tuesday, alternating Saturdays.

Each shift might have a similar start, but they are all different.

“There’s no such thing as routine in police work,” Chavez says.

Once vehicles are gassed up, the deputies begin patrolling. Leaving Los Lunas, Chavez heads south on N.M. 47 with no specific destination set.

“Sometimes we’ll patrol areas of criminal activity, where we’ve had stolen vehicles, property crime, mostly to be seen,” he said.

Since he started walking, Chavez said he knew he wanted to have a career in law enforcement.

Born and raised in Quemado, about 150 miles southwest of Valencia County, Chavez said here has always been home.

“I’m not sure why. This was just home,” he said.

Chavez admits law enforcement officers aren’t always beloved by the community.

“A lot of people think we’re the worst thing ever, but we’re the second coming when they need help,” he mused.

Chavez talks about the importance of officers getting to know the community, being present at events and becoming familiar faces.

He is almost to the Dollar General in Meadow Lake when there’s a call for an open 911 call off of Manzano Expressway, so Chavez pulls off the road to turn around.

Sgt. Pedro Chavez, who’s been with the Valencia County Sheriff’s Office for 13 years, checks his laptop for new calls for service as he starts the graveyard shift.
Julia M. Dendinger | News-Bulletin photos

As he heads back west, the driver of a passing sports car guns his engine.

“And then there’s that,” he says.

Another deputy responds, resolving the 911 call — not an emergency but a child playing with a phone.

There’s a domestic disturbance near Airport Road. As Chavez drives slowly, trying to find the correct address, he waves to a group of people on a deck. A man raises his hand, maybe waving in return, maybe not.

It’s nearly 9 p.m. when Chavez finds the house, on a cul de sac at the end of a short dirt road. Two other deputies are already on scene and he checks in with them.

They have the situation handled, so Chavez checks the open calls on his laptop. He is less than a mile from a driver with a stalled vehicle.

“This is one of those calls that’s not a crime, but it’s a public-safety issue since it’s partially on the road, blocking traffic,” Chavez said.

When he arrives on scene, Chavez approaches slowly in his unit. As a man begins to walk toward him, he comes to a stop and turns on his emergency lights. The man waves him forward, but Chavez stays where he is.

There are three vehicles parked on the side of the road, in addition to the disabled vehicle, along with five or six people.

“If he’d have kept coming toward me, I would have backed up,” the sergeant says.

He points his vehicle’s spotlight at the stalled pickup and gets out. After talking with the people on the road and collecting some IDs and paperwork, Chavez returns to his unit.

The dome light is on as he enters information into the computer.

“With this,” he says tapping the light, “I’m a sitting duck.”

As he writes up his report, Chavez talks about the things that can give away an officer in the dark — a dome light, flashlight, alert on a cell phone, the jingle of a set of keys.

He points out a button in the upper right corner of his laptop screen. Touch that and his GPS coordinates are sent to the dispatch center and every agency in the county responds.

The truck is finally towed and Chavez makes his way back down into the valley, responding to a call of shots fired on a ditchbank off of Banco Road in Los Chavez.

Chavez talks about what makes his job good, what keeps him going every day.

“It’s when someone says, ‘thank you.’ When people come to you and you can help, whatever the reason for the call,” he said. “When children say, ‘thank you’ — that means a lot. That’s why we want to get involved with the public. We get to see all these diverse communities interacting.”

There isn’t much on the ditchbank except a few people braving the mosquitoes to night fish.

Now close to midnight, there will be a bit of a lull he says. Deputies will meet up for a bite to eat, to file reports and just say, “Hello. How are you doing?”

Between 7 p.m., Thursday, June 13, and 7 a.m., Friday, June 14, the four deputies on duty responded to 28 calls for service and filed 12 reports, ranging from an aggravated residential burglary to a neighbor dispute to a mental health evaluation.

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Julia M. Dendinger began working at the VCNB in 2006. She covers Valencia County government, Belen Consolidated Schools and the village of Bosque Farms. She is a member of the Society of Professional Journalists Rio Grande chapter’s board of directors.